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Eyewitnesses to attack at boxing club say gunman only stopped firing after Pete Taylor was hit

The trial of Gerard Cervi, who is accused of murder and two counts of attempted murder, continued today.

Pete Taylor
Pete Taylor
Image: Niall Carson/PA Images

TWO EYEWITNESSES TO the fatal attack at Bray Boxing Club have told the Central Criminal Court that the gunman only stopped firing after trainer Pete Taylor was hit.

The trial of Gerard Cervi, who is accused of murder and two counts of attempted murder, heard today that the shooter seemed calm as he opened fire on the boxing gym.

Gym-goer Wojciech Bak, who was attending the gym for the first time, told the jurors that he locked himself into the toilet after Bobby Messett, whom he was paired with that day, was shot dead.

“I personally couldn’t be there, I had to leave, they were pictures I had never seen in my life and I was not ready to see anything like this,” he said.

Cervi (34), from the East Wall area of Dublin 3 has pleaded not guilty to murdering Messett at Taylor’s Bray Boxing Club, Bray Harbour, Bray, Co Wicklow during an early morning fitness session on 5 June 2018. Cervi denies the attempted murder of Taylor and Ian Britton on the same occasion.

Alan Hunter told prosecuting counsel Paul Murray SC today that he was taking part in the early morning fitness class on the first floor of the gym and was positioned at a Smith machine beside the doorway when the incident happened.

He said his back was facing the door when he heard the first bang. His initial reaction was to “spin around” and he thought at first that the noise had come from an air compressor.

When he turned around to face the door, Mr Hunter said he saw “two arms” holding a gun coming through the doorway. He “went down on his honkers” after the first shot was fired and then heard more bangs coming from the gun.

He said Taylor started to “make a run” at the shooter from the corner of the room but he fell over “in a split second” and came crashing down beside him.

“Pete said ‘get me an ambulance, get me an ambulance,” he told the jury. He said the shooting from the gunman “pretty much stopped straight away” after Taylor fell to the ground.

Hunter then jumped up from the ground and began looking for his phone but couldn’t find it. He found another phone on one of the benches and went into the toilet, where there was a Polish man inside with the door locked.

He saw Messett lying on the ground when he left the toilet and “realised what had happened”.

Hunter said the figure in the doorway, who he had observed for “a split second”, was “enough” to make him “hit the ground”. He estimated that around six or seven shots were fired. He remembered sparks hitting the walls and said the incident could have lasted up to 30 seconds or more.

He said the shooter was “more or less beside” him but the doorway was covering him so he only saw the shooter’s arms coming through it. The gunman was wearing a black helmet, black gloves and a black leather jacket, he noted.

The witness said he was in disbelief when he left the gym and there was pandemonium outside. When asked by Murray how the gunman seemed when the shots were being fired, Hunter said he was calm.

Hunter said he felt numb afterwards. He described it as “horrific” that one man had died and another two were injured.

Under cross-examination, Hunter agreed with defence counsel Cathal McGreal BL that he had said in his statement that he could not be “100 percent sure” if the gunman’s visor on the helmet had been up or down.

Wojciech Bak, who gave evidence via video link from Germany, said he had been living in Ireland permanently in 2018. He drove a Yamaha motorbike to Bray Harbour that morning and it was his first time attending the gym.

Bak said he knew Andy Williams, who was also attending the early morning fitness class. He was introduced to a few people before the class began and was paired with Messett.

Bak said that he was working with the dumbbells on the ground and Messett was in front of a machine.

The witness said Taylor was about to start the workout and was putting the music on when he heard something “like firecrackers”.

“I looked very quickly to the left and saw blood coming out, I didn’t know where. My brain luckily reacted in the way, I ran immediately to the right, I ran into the changing room. This is where I hid myself and locked myself. Only after when everyone was gone, someone said ‘you can come out, it’s all good now’, this is the moment I left the toilet,” he recalled.

When he came out of the changing room, Bak said he saw Messett’s body in front of the machine, which he described as “lying there”.

The witness told Murray: “I personally couldn’t be there, I had to leave, they were pictures I had never seen in my life and I was not ready to see anything like this so I just proceeded to the exit.”

When he went back into the gym to retrieve his belongings, Bak said he only made it as far as the doors of the gym when he saw Messett again and “had to leave as I couldn’t handle it”.

He said he had heard “a handful of firecrackers” and the incident had lasted a couple of seconds.

“My only concern was to escape, I escaped to the toilet which wasn’t really a great solution,” he said.

When asked if he was able to hear anything inside the toilet, Bak said he couldn’t remember and “could only remember thinking I am going to die basically.”

“I can’t remember if I could hear anything, I wasn’t concentrating about hearing anything,” he added.

In cross-examination, Bak agreed with Anne-Marie Lawlor SC, defending, that he wanted to get his personal belongings after the incident but didn’t want to go back into the changing room again so he asked a garda to retrieve them.

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When asked how long after the shooting did the garda get his helmet, backpack and jacket from the changing room, Bak said it was about a half-an-hour later but “it’s very hard to say as my heart is beating”.

In re-examination, Murray asked the witness if he had gone into the gym again to get his belongings or did he just stand at the door. “I stand at the doors and the moment I saw Bobby’s body I turned around and left. I went as far as upstairs and saw the body and turned back as I couldn’t handle it,” he said.

Gym-goer Linda Gill said she heard “really loud bangs” in the gym that morning and felt a panic in the room.

When she turned around she saw Messett on the ground and someone in the doorway. She said everyone was dropping to the ground so she grabbed her young gym partner and pulled her down.

She added: “Pete came from behind me and was running towards the guy at the door like he was going after him. I remember Pete falling back into the door and could see he’d been shot. As soon as Pete got hit it felt like the shooter was gone.”

When asked at what point did the shooting come to an end, Ms Gill said she had heard the first few shots when she had her back to the door and a few more when on the ground. “Only after Pete had been shot and fell back in is when they stopped completely,” she said.

Yesterday, boxing trainer Pete Taylor testified that he was “within touching distance” of the gunman when he was shot, spun 180 degrees and fell to the floor where he lay unable to move due to the pain.

He said that he felt one bullet “whizz” past his head as he ran towards the gunman who was standing in the doorway of the gym.

In his opening address, Murray said that a “lone gunman” walked into Bray Boxing Club before 7am on June 5 and fired nine shots from a semi automatic pistol “in quick succession” in “varying directions” in the confined place, leaving one man dead and two other men injured.

Messett was fatally shot in the head during the exercise class and the organiser of the class Taylor and class participant Mr Britton were shot in the bodies and survived.

It is the State’s case that Cervi was the gunman and that he intended to commit murder that day.

Murray said in his opening that if a person makes a mistake, or kills the wrong person, it is still murder if there was intent to kill a person.

The trial continues tomorrow in front of Justice Michael White and a jury of three men and nine women.

About the author:

Alison O'Riordan

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