Man accused of Sunset House murder first came to Ireland to steal cars, court told

A number of holiday photos of accused in ski mask were also handed into non-jury court

Liverpool native David Hunter (41), of Du Cane Road, White City, London, is pleading not guilty to the murder of Michael Barr (35) at the Sunset House pub in Summerhill in Dublin on the night of April 25th, 2016

Liverpool native David Hunter (41), of Du Cane Road, White City, London, is pleading not guilty to the murder of Michael Barr (35) at the Sunset House pub in Summerhill in Dublin on the night of April 25th, 2016

 

A UK man accused of the murder of Michael Barr said he first came to Ireland months before the shooting and left behind his ski mask – now a key piece of evidence in the trial – during a botched car robbery, his trial has heard.

Liverpool native David Hunter (41) gave the account in a voluntary statement sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions on June 4th last, 11 days before his trial opened before the Special Criminal Court.

A number of holiday photos of Mr Hunter in a ski mask were also handed into the non-jury court on Wednesday .

On Tuesday, the court heard that the major part of a DNA profile taken from a ski mask recovered during the investigation into the shooting matches that of Mr Hunter.

Mr Hunter, of Du Cane Road, White City, London, is pleading not guilty to the murder of Mr Barr (35) at the Sunset House pub in Summerhill in Dublin on the night of April 25th, 2016.

Tyrone native Mr Barr was shot seven times – five times in the head – after two men wearing masks entered the pub at around 9pm.

Shortly after the shooting on the night of the murder, the ski mask was found by gardaí in a burning Audi A6 on the Walsh Road, Drumcondra.

Dr Edward Connolly of Forensic Science Ireland gave evidence to Dominic McGinn SC, prosecuting, that mixed DNA profiles had been found on two masks – one rubber and one ski – taken from the Audi by gardaí.

Dr Connolly said that he found a mixed DNA profile on a ski mask with four elements: one major, two minor and one trace.

Mr McGinn was told by the witness that the “major contributor” of the ski mask’s DNA profile formed 61 per cent of the mixed profile.

On Wednesday, Mr McGinn read from a voluntary statement made by Mr Hunter that was sent to the DPP by Mr Hunter’s solicitor, Felim O’Neill, on June 4 th.

Det Garda Shane Connolly told Mr McGinn that he received the statement via the DPP on June 5th last.

In the statement read out by Mr McGinn, Mr Hunter says that he first came to Ireland on February 8th, 2016, on a “last-minute Ryanair flight” and that he used to steal cars “for order” in the UK.

Drink and drugs

Mr Hunter stated he was made aware that he could make double the amount for stealing a car in Ireland compared to his native Liverpool, and said that he was on drink and drugs at the time.

A contact told Mr Hunter to book into a Travelodge in Dublin and await a phone call, which came that night.

Mr Hunter says that he met a guy looking for a car and that the male picked him up and drove both to a housing estate 45 minutes away.

The statement says that Mr Hunter suggested a nice estate “where people would not be expecting it”.

Mr Hunter says that he began to walk around the estate with his ski mask rolled up like a hat and said he had it from various ski trips with his children to Norway, France, Spain, Scotland, Austria and Switzerland.

A number of holiday photos of Mr Hunter in a ski mask were handed into court.

The two men then went to another estate and Mr Hunter began to walk around that estate at 1am.

Mr Hunter told the male that he did not like the look of a man out walking his dog but was told by the male not to worry.

The defendant said he saw a BMW parked on a path and had gotten the door open when the man with the dog returned and shouted: “What the f*** are you doing?”

Mr Hunter and the male drove away from the scene and Mr Hunter told the male that he did not wish to continue that night as he had just had “a lucky escape”.

“I left the ski mask in the car and that’s the last I saw of it,” Mr Hunter said in his statement.

He was supposed to receive another call from the male the next day but it never came and he returned to Liverpool.

Mr Hunter said that he did not know the man’s name or height, as he was driving, but described him as having “bad acne all over his face, around 30 years old, average build, with an Irish accent”.

On April 14th, 2016, Mr Hunter was found out by his ex-partner to be having an affair and a confrontation ensued. The defendant said he was attacked by her and that she threatened to never let him see his children again.

‘Blow-out’

After being alerted by a neighbour that the police had broken down his door looking for him, he decided to have one last “blow-out” and then go into rehab, so that he could take care of his children.

Mr Hunter – who said he was also getting over the death of his brother at the time – and his girlfriend came to Dublin on April 23rd, 2016, and he consumed large amounts of alcohol, cocaine and cannabis for the week.

On the morning of the murder, April 25th, 2016, Mr Hunter and his girlfriend were joined by a female friend from Liverpool but Mr Hunter could not pick her up as he had “a large glass of brandy as soon as he got up”.

Mr Hunter said his girlfriend drove them both to pick up her friend and while the women went shopping, he spent the day in pubs and the bookies around Swords.

Later, at around 9pm – the time of the shooting in Summerhill – the two women returned to the Travelodge in Swords and said they wanted to go out to Temple Bar, and all three left the hotel at 10.30pm.

Further on in the week, he flew to Spain and went into a residential, 12-step addiction programme and completed his certificate after 28 days.

Defending barrister Róisín Lacey said that the pictures of Mr Hunter showed him with the ski mask on trips abroad and that it could be pulled down to show the face and that it was not a balaclava.

Det Garda Connolly demonstrated that the ski mask could be pulled down in the style that Mr Hunter appeared to be wearing it in the photos handed in.

Mr McGinn told presiding judge Mr Justice Alexander Owens that the prosecution expected to conclude its evidence on Tuesday and that, after closing statements, the trial should finish on Thursday of next week.