Father and sportsman Bobby Messett received a fatal gunshot wound to his head yesterday when a gunman recklessly opened fire on a packed early morning boot camp in Bray, Co Wicklow.
The 50-year-old suffered traumatic injuries and died at the scene, while two other people, including boxing coach Pete Taylor, escaped with their lives.
Mr Taylor, aged 57 and father of boxer Katie Taylor, received a gunshot wound to his torso, while another innocent participant in the fitness session, Ian Britton, aged 35, was shot three times in the leg.
Detectives believe the shooting was a botched attack and are understood to be following specific lines of inquiry on local criminality.
Garda sources suspect that at least six and up to 10 shots were fired by the gunman. They say that more people could have been seriously injured or even killed.
The lone gunman drove away in a VW Caddy van into Ringsend, Dublin’s south inner city, left it intact, and then cycled away. The van was located at 3pm and Garda forensic experts are conducting a technical examination for DNA, fingerprints and fibres.
There were 15 to 20 people in the gym room at Bray Boxing Club when just before 7am the gunman entered and opened fire.
Officers said they did not know if the attack was indiscriminate or if the gunman had planned to target a particular person, but said the shooting was “reckless”.
They are examining a number of avenues and believe the motive has local causes relating to criminality, which enveloped “totally innocent people”.
One source said:
The man killed in the attack was a well-known local sportsman, boxing coach, cyclist, and footballer who often engaged in charity work.
“He was totally innocent, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said a garda source.
It is thought that Mr Messett, a father of three from Giltspur Brook in Bray, Co Wicklow, may have been nearest the gunman when he opened fire.
Mr Britton, from nearby Greystones, was shot three times in the right leg.
Mr Taylor was shot in the torso, but was able to speak to people after he was brought to hospital. He later underwent surgery.
Speaking at the scene yesterday, Superintendent Patrick Ward of Bray Garda Station said that, at around 6.50am to 7am, about 15-20 people had gathered for a gym session at the club.
“They were just about to start their session when someone came in, a gunman,” he said.
“He was carrying a firearm, we believe it was a handgun, and he started opening fire and three people received gunshot wounds, unfortunately one died at the scene.
“It was a normal session, being undertaken by people who normally undertake that session. This came totally out of the blue.”
Supt Ward said that while they were trying to determine the number of shots that were fired, “more people could have been injured”.
He said there was no prior information to suggest any threat to that gym and that they did not know what the motive was, but that that was a “prime inquiry”.
While the gunman was wearing “headgear”, it was not yet clear what type.
Supt Ward said they had the names of most of the people who were in the gym and urged anyone who hadn’t yet been in touch to do so.
He asked people out walking or over recent mornings and who saw anything suspicious to contact them, gym users or anyone with dash cams. He also asked anyone who saw a North-reg silver Volkswagen Caddy to contact them.
Bray Garda Station on 01 666 5300 or the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111.
Anthony Connor was out walking his dog just before 7am along a quiet Bray
Harbour when a man came out of the boxing club and lay on the ground with bullet holes in his leg.
Mr Connor had just parked his car behind the Bray Boxing Club when people spilled out from the building in front of him.
“I was just walking my dog and the guy stumbles out of the gym,” he said. “He was lying on the ground with two bullet holes in his leg, his right leg [pointing to the lower part of his leg]. I could see them distinctly.
“A girl came out crying, she was being hugged by some other guy. I spoke to an Eastern European guy who came out and said: ‘Can I have a cigarette?’ I said: ‘Yeah, no problem. It’s in my car.’ ”
As they walked over to the car, he asked the man what had happened: “He said: ‘I was two metres away from the guy who shot them. I saw the guy come in and bang, bang, bang.”
He said the witness couldn’t really describe the gunman.
Mr Connor said the squad cars came and the Garda helicopter was up, and that he was still shaken by the whole thing.
Local man Bobby Messett, aged 50 and a father of three, was shot dead. The second injured man, from nearby Greystones, was named as Ian Britton. Boxing coach Pete Taylor, father of Olympic gold medalist Katie Taylow, was shot in the torso, but survived.
57-year-old coach Taylor is a household name in the area and in sport countrywide, particularly after the success of his daughter in the London 2012 Olympics.
The club received State funding totalling €300,000 after that event and a new building was erected.
While owned by Bray District Council, the club is synonymous with Mr Taylor, who set it up in 1995. Olympian Adam Nolan, a local garda in Bray, also trains there.
Katie Taylor was coached by her dad at the club but, more recently, is under the management of Brian Peters. She turned professional after the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Mr Taylor’s white 161 Mustang was parked right outside the entrance to the club.
The small harbour, peppered with local boats, is also home to Bray Sailing Club as well as three fishing clubs.
Sailing club member Tom Bailey said he got a text from a fellow member at 7.15am telling him three people had been shot at the gym.
“They have training there, but it would be quiet at that time,” he said.
He referred to two sets of cameras the sailing club operates which captures the area. One above the club looks directly at the boxing club, while a second is closer to the boxing club and captures the entrance into it.
Gardaí were accessing these cameras yesterday.
They should capture the gunman going in and out. They might also show if there was anyone in the Northern-registered van that he was driving.
There were conflicting accounts that the gunman was either wearing a motorbike helmet, a workman’s helmet or maybe a balaclava.
Speaking at a press briefing at the scene yesterday, Superintendent Patrick Ward said the gunman was wearing “some kind of headgear”, but that they were trying to confirm with eyewitnesses if it was a dark helmet of a balaclava.
He said there was around 15-20 people in the gym room at the time to have their regular gym session.
“They were just about to start their session when someone came in, a gunman, he was carrying a firearm, we believe it was a handgun,” said Supt Ward. “He started opening fire and three people received gunshot wounds.”
He urged users of the gym and people out walking in the area or people who saw the silver Volkswagen Caddy (later recovered) to ring Bray Garda Station on 01 6665300 or the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111.
This article was edited June 7, 2018 in light of new information.
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