Man shot dead in front of girlfriend and baby, inquest told

Hughie McGinley (26) died after gunman put small weapon to left temple and shot him once

A man was shot dead in front of his girlfriend and baby son as he sat in a parked van in a busy shopping street in Sligo, an inquest has heard.

Hughie McGinley (26), from Connaughton Road in Sligo, died after the gunman, a pillion passenger on a motorbike, put a small silver handgun “like a cowboy’s gun” to his left temple and shot him once, Coroner Eamon MacGowan heard at Sligo Coroner’s Court.

A witness told gardaí the deceased had pulled up in his van to admire a pitbull terrier before he was shot through the open window of his van. The shooting happened outside EJ’s Menswear on Grattan Street on April 28th, 2005.

Nobody charged

Insp Daniel Sweeney told the court that while 550 witness statements had been taken in the course of a lengthy investigation, nobody had been charged with the murder.


The investigation was ongoing but it was “improbable” that further information would emerge at this juncture, he said.

The inquest heard two of the victim’s brothers had arrived at the scene and brought the unconscious man in his own van to Sligo General Hospital, where he died some six hours later.

Trevor Donnellan, a native of Ennis who had a pitbull terrier on a lead on Grattan Street, said he saw a motorbike driver steering with this left hand while texting on his phone.

Mr Donnellan, who has since emigrated to Australia, told gardaí that the victim, a settled Traveller, had pulled in to admire the dog and had been asking him whether it was for sale just before he was shot.

“He had his head resting on the door with his left hand out to pat the dog,” Mr Donnellan recalled.

‘Terrible bang’

He said he had noticed a fellow with a motorbike helmet on, with the black visor down. “He stood and looked at the driver and then looked at me...With that he pulled a handgun like a cowboy gun . It was silver in colour. He put the gun to the left temple of the driver and there was a terrible bang.”

Mr Donnellan said the driver was glued to his seat in an upright position. “He had a hole to the head - there was very little blood.”

Witnesses said the young woman in the passenger seat was screaming and shouting and there were lots of onlookers shouting and roaring.

The Coroner said everyone living in Sligo remembered the killing, which was “historic” in Sligo, even though it might not be in terms of Dublin or Ireland as a whole.

“It was a terrible thing that a man was shot in front of his girlfriend , the mother of his child,” he added.

The jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing after hearing evidence from State Pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy, who carried out a postmortem.

She said X-rays at the hospital showed a bullet was lodged in the brain. The only significant injury sustained was a gunshot wound to the left side of the head, she said.

The inquest heard the motorbike used in the attack had been stolen in Lucan earlier that day and was later found burnt out in a quarry at Carramore, near Sligo.

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports from the northwest of Ireland