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Bray Boxing Club murder trial collapses due to juror becoming seriously ill

Gerard Cervi is charged with the murder of Bobby Messett.

LAST UPDATE | 6 Sep 2021

THE TRIAL OF a man accused of murdering an early morning gym-goer and the attempted murder of coach Pete Taylor at Bray Boxing Club has collapsed at the Central Criminal Court due to a juror becoming seriously ill.

The trial has been sitting for 10 weeks and heard weeks of legal argument in the jury’s absence since opening at the Criminal Courts of Justice.

Evidence was scheduled to continue before the ten jurors today but Justice Michael White told the nine remaining jurors this morning that one of their number could not continue to attend the trial as she had to “go back into” hospital.

The judge said that whilst the juror’s illness was not “life-threatening”, it was “impossible to continue” as they had “gone below ten jurors”.

Justice White thanked the jury of three men and six women before discharging them from their civic duty.

“My sincere thanks to you all. You have been a fantastic jury and shown real public service commitment. Thank you very much, you are now free to go,” he added. He exempted the nine jurors from jury service for life.

He then listed Gerard Cervi’s case for mention before the Central Criminal Court on 11 October.

Cervi (34), from the East Wall area in Dublin 3, had pleaded not guilty to murdering Bobby Messett (50) at Bray Boxing Club, Bray Harbour, Bray, Co Wicklow on 5 June, 2018. He also denied the attempted murder of boxing trainer Peter Taylor and Ian Britton on the same date and location.

The trial, which opened on 29 June, was originally due to finish in August and two jurors asked to be discharged when the finish date was extended to September. On 24 August, the remaining ten jurors further agreed to sit on until 22 October.

However, nine members of the jury arrived in court last Thursday and Mr Justice White told them he was “sorry to hear about the illness to one of your number”.

He said he hoped the juror would make a good recovery and adjourned the trial until today when he expected the court to have more information on the juror’s condition.

Justice White had previously told the jury that the trial could not continue with fewer than ten jurors.

He had also previously apologised to the jury for the “very bad underestimation” of how long the trial would take.

The trial had heard that a gunman entered Bray Boxing Club at about 6.50am and opened fire. He shot Messett in the head, killing him instantly. Britton was shot in the leg. Boxing trainer Peter Taylor, who was running the class, ran towards the gunman but was shot in the shoulder and fell to the ground.

It was the State’s case against Cervi that he was the “lone gunman” who entered Bray Boxing Club just before 7am on 5 June and fired nine shots from a semi automatic pistol “in quick succession” in “varying directions”, leaving Messett dead and trainer Pete Taylor and Britton injured “before making good his escape”.

Boxing trainer Pete Taylor, who was taking the gym class at 6.45am on 5 June, said he was plugging his phone into the sound system when “a loud bang went off”. He thought it was an air compressor and when he turned around he heard a second bang and saw someone “straddled between the door frame with what looked like a gun. I thought he was someone playing a prank and then I noticed Bobby [Mr Messett] on the ground and everyone hitting the ground. The chap was shooting right to left around the room, shooting very low”.

Taylor looked for something “to throw at the chap” but all he could see were large weights too heavy to throw. “It was chaotic. I just decided to run at him, not directly towards him because there were machines in the way that I had to run around to get to him. As I was running the first shot went off that was aimed towards me. I felt it whizz above my head and I put my arm across my head and kept running,” he recalled.

“I was within touching distance, maybe a foot away,” said Taylor, when he “dived” towards the gunman but was struck by a bullet, spun 180 degrees and landed on his back on the floor. He said: “I tried to get up again but couldn’t get up with the pain and then the shooting stopped and it went quiet and then everyone started screaming and shouting.”

Taylor’s partner Karen Brown testified that she arrived at the gym moments after the shooting and almost crashed into a grey van that was leaving the scene, which she thought was a Volkswagen Caddy or a Ford Transit. When she saw Taylor lying on the floor of the gym with blood coming from his chest, she thought he was dying.

Father-of-three Messett died from a single gunshot wound to the head. Retired State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy testified during the trial that the absence of secondary projectiles around the bullet’s entry hole indicated that there was a distance of a meter or more between the victim and the shooter when the gun was fired.

Alison O'Riordan