Assault probe upgraded to murder hunt

GARDAÍ yesterday upgraded a serious assault investigation to a murder hunt after a man died in hospital.

Anthony Byrne, aged 37, originally from Drimnagh, south Dublin, lost his six-month battle for life on Monday. He had just left his flat in an inner city complex with his girlfriend when they were set upon by a gang, comprising at least two teenagers.

Detective sources said the assault, which occurred on the night of January 18, was “vicious and unprovoked” resulting in serious head injuries to Mr Byrne.

There were local reports at the time, unconfirmed by gardaí, that the assault stemmed from the theft of a mobile phone.

Locals said the youths took Mr Byrne’s mobile phone with the pretence of making a call, then jumped on him when he tried to get it back.

Gardaí were alerted and officers were dispatched from the nearby Harcourt Terrace Station.

On arrival, they found Mr Byrne unconscious on the ground and his girlfriend beside him, also injured.

A Garda spokesman said yesterday: “He was knocked to the ground and severely assaulted. The incident lasted for several minutes.”

An ambulance was called and the couple were taken to St James’s Hospital. Mr Byrne’s girlfriend was later discharged and gave a statement to gardaí about the incident.

Mr Byrne was transferred to Beaumont Hospital, north Dublin, which is a specialist centre for head injuries.

A number of Garda units were alerted and two teenagers were arrested close to the scene.

The teenagers, aged 16 and 18, were taken to Harcourt Terrace Station, where they were detained under section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act.

The youths were later released without charge.

It’s understood that a third person could have also been involved in the attack.

The Garda spokesman said: “An investigation commenced into this assault and a number of persons were arrested and interviewed. A file was forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions and directions are awaited.”

He said detectives investigating the case were appealing to anybody who had information concerning the assault, but who had not yet come forward, to contact them.

“In particular, they would like to speak to taxi drivers who may have been working in the area at the relevant time.”

* Harcourt Terrace Garda Station, telephone 01-6669500 or via the Confidential Line 1800-666111.”

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