Brutal killing shocks community

GARDAÍ yesterday said they were investigating a number of “domestic” issues in connection with Sunday’s brutal killing of a mother-of-two.

Baiba Saulite, 28, was standing at the doorway to her home in Holywell Square, Swords, north Dublin, when she was shot dead at close range.

Gardaí said a lone gunman walked up to the Latvia national, who was chatting with friends, picked her out and opened fire on her a number of times with a handgun.

The mother of two young children, aged three and five, died almost instantly while her attacker walked to a waiting car, which was driven off by an accomplice.

Detectives are investigating whether the killing was carried out by a professional hitman and will examine any links with organised criminals, particularly within the Latvian community.

A garda spokesman yesterday said they did not yet have any specific motive behind the shocking murder, but were examining a number of issues.

“There are a range of issues there on the table, including perhaps a number of domestic issues, that may or may not be relevant as the investigation moves forward, but specifically there’s no clear motivation coming out at this stage,” Superintendent Kevin Donohoe.

He said no threats to Ms Saulite’s life had ever been reported to gardaí. But he added: “There are a number of issues in this investigation, including some centring around domestic arrangements that we were aware of and are being investigated and were being investigated.”

In January 2005, it emerged that gardaí were investigating claims by Ms Saulite that her estranged husband Hassan Hassan took her two children away from her.

Mr Hassan was released from custody that month after serving nearly three weeks behind bars for contempt of court.

The Lebanese national had refused to hand over the two children, Mohammed Rami Hassan, now aged three, and Ali Alexsandre Hassan, aged five, despite court orders to do so.

The children were later returned. Gardaí yesterday informed Mr Hassan, who is currently in custody in Mountjoy Jail on a separate matter, about Ms Saulite’s death.

Supt Donohoe yesterday said the gunman was not masked, but was “dressed heavily” and wore a cap.

He said the gunman and his accomplice drove away in a white box-type car, but had no other details.

He said garda forensic experts were examining whether a burnt-out BMW found in nearby Birchdale shortly after the shooting may be connected.

He declined to comment on Ms Saulite’s circumstances as they were still informing her relatives in Latvia. But he said: “There was a court case some time ago in which she may have featured involving her estranged partner who certainly is in Mountjoy at the moment on separate charges.”

Last January, Ms Saulite spoke to RTÉ’s Liveline and to other media, after her two children’s disappearance.

She said: “These children have always been with me, every day, every minute. These children must be very upset. All I want is my babies to be back home to be with mummy. I am the mummy and any kid need their mother.”

Neighbours in the Holywell Square, a large new development near Swords, were deeply shocked by the shooting, although no one spoken to knew of the victim personally.

One woman who lives behind the victim’s house said it was a terrible thing to happen in such a close-knit area. “If the gunshot went astray, there are other children directly behind her, she had children herself, it’s just why? No one can take any life no matter what the consequences are.”

She said she heard the gunshot fire and knew what it was and that gardaí arrived within a few minutes.

She said she knew the victim to say hello to, but didn’t know her personally.

“There’s loads of new houses and new families going in, but regardless of whether this place is up 50 years, it doesn’t make a difference, a life is a life and she has two young children.”

Another man, a foreign national, described the shooting as a disaster. “I’m kind of real nervous now. I think I heard two or three gunshots. I was sleeping at the time.”

One woman said she was not shocked by the incident. “It happening everywhere, Swords, Sandymount, Tallaght, there’s loads of feuds going on. This looks like a feud.”

Another woman said she hoped the Latvian community would come forward and not be afraid to approach the gardaí.

A woman, wheeling a buggy, said she also heard the shots. “I heard the gardaí arriving after a few minutes. I didn’t know her myself, although I knew she had children OK. There’s always kids playing outside the area.”

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