Man seen leaving Bray Boxing Club ‘in a hurry’ after lound noises, murder trial hears

Dr Marie Cassidy says Bobby Messett died from single gunshot wound to head

Bobby Messett died after being shot at Bray Boxing Club in Co Wicklow on June 5th, 2018.

Bobby Messett died after being shot at Bray Boxing Club in Co Wicklow on June 5th, 2018.


A sea swimmer has told a murder trial that she heard “an explosion, like something was being detonated” moments before a man ran out of Bray Boxing Club “in a hurry” and “revved” up his van.

Gerard Cervi (34), from the East Wall area of Dublin 3, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Bobby Messett (50) at Pete Taylor’s Bray Boxing Club in Bray Harbour, Co Wicklow during an early morning fitness session on June 5th, 2018.

Mr Cervi also denies the attempted murder of Mr Taylor and Ian Britton on the same occasion.

Elizabeth Petcu, who lives on Bray seafront, told prosecuting counsel Paul Murray SC on Friday that June 5th, 2018 was a lovely day so she went for a swim with her two dogs in front of her house at 6.30am.

“Having completed my swim normally I would go home but the morning was so beautiful I said I’d walk the harbour and look at the birds,” she said.

Ms Petcu described hearing a noise that sounded like an explosion and said “it was like something was being detonated in the harbour”.

The witness said she then saw a man wearing a yellow hard hat “like construction workers wear” and a yellow high-vis vest running out of the boxing club.

“I thought he was doing building work and had detonated something and was running away,” she added.

The witness said she saw the man jump over a barrier outside the entrance to the club and “land awkwardly”. “I heard a car start up and saw him fly by in this little van,” she continued.

She said she thought the man was dark-skinned and wearing a little hat.

“I knew I had seen something unusual but I didn’t get the whole number plate as I was in shock,” she said.

Distinctive van

Describing the yellow number plate of the “silver or white van”, Mr Petcu said it had “something like AZ in it”, was quite distinctive and there was a window at the back of the vehicle, which had “surprised” her.

The witness said she could only see the driver in the vehicle, which she described as being like a “small post office or police van”.

She told Mr Murray that she was not sure how many “explosions” she had heard.

Asked about the man’s height, the witness said she got the impression he was not particularly tall but he was stocky and “thick-set”.

When asked what sound the van’s engine had made, Ms Petcu said it was “revving” and sounded like “someone was in a hurry”.

The van was moving “as quickly as possible”, she continued, and this was when she realised what she had seen.

Ms Petcu said people began to “spill out” of the boxing club and they looked “ashen faced” and shocked. She knew most of these people to see as she would walk there every morning.

“I didn’t want to stay too long as I felt like a voyeur but I did stay a bit as I couldn’t make sense of what I had seen,” she indicated.

Earlier, Anne-Marie Holland told prosecution counsel Dara Hayes BL that she usually goes for a walk with her husband at 6.15am each morning but they had left the house a little bit later on the morning of June 5th, 2018.

Ms Holland said they drove to the beach in separate cars at around 6.30am or 6.35am as her husband was going to work afterwards.

“We live close to the seafront so I literally had to take one street down, it is three minutes of a drive,” she remarked.

Reversing vehicle

The witness said she would normally drive to the end of the carpark and park facing the sea. On this particular morning, she said the carpark was practically empty but for one which she “had to avoid”.

As she drove into the carpark, Ms Holland said the car reversed towards her as if it was going to hit her.

“I got kind of scared as it was reversing towards me at speed. It was reversing directly at me, which I thought was odd,” she said.

Describing the car, Ms Holland said it was a large car with darkened windows at the back. “It looked like a car van, a silver-coloured grey car. My fear was that I was going to be hit at that hour of the morning,” she said.

“It was ominous as it wasn’t one I see everyday. It was reversing at such speed that I had to accelerate to park the car,” she continued.

She said the other car exited the car park and “literally disappeared” as she parked her car. She thought the registration plates were yellow and the car was “lighter rather than dark”.

As she walked to the south end of the beach with her husband, Ms Holland said she could see lots of garda cars on the road and said to her husband that it was “very unusual”. As they walked back along the beach, she met a lady who told her that there had been a shooting.

Under cross-examination, the witness agreed with defence counsel Anne-Marie Lawlor SC that she had told gardai that the other car was dark grey or a silver colour but not bright silver.

In his opening speech, Mr Murray said a resident in the Cornelscourt area of Cabinteely noticed a silver van in a cul de sac after 7am that morning with a yellow registration plate beginning with DFZ, which the prosecution say was the same van seen leaving the boxing club after the shooting.

The court heard that at 1.30pm, gardaí received a report of a silver Volkswagen Caddy with the same registration number parked along Pigeon House Road near the East Link toll bridge.

Mr Murray said there would also be a witness to give evidence of seeing a man on a bicycle at the van at around 8.15am, long before it was reported to gardaí. Counsel told the jury it was the prosecution’s case that the man with the bicycle and the man in the van were both Mr Cervi.

Single gunshot wound

Earlier, former State pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy told the trial that Mr Messett died from a single gunshot wound to the head.

She told Mr Murray that she conducted a postmortem on Mr Messett, who was fully dressed in gym clothing, at St Columcille’s Hospital in Loughlinstown on the afternoon of June 5th.

She said that Mr Messett had a ballistic type injury to the head caused by a bullet, which was consistent with a large exit wound at the back of the head.

In conclusion, the witness said the postmortem showed that his death was due to a single gunshot wound to the head, which had entered through the left side of the nose. The bullet had travelled through the head before exiting the right side of the head at the back. Haemorrhage in the brain stem would have caused instant collapse and rapid death, she said.

Dr Cassidy said the absence of “secondary projectiles” such as smoke, soot and unburned powder around the entry hole indicated that there was a distance of a metre or more between the victim and the shooter when the gun was fired.

Det Garda Janette O’Neill, who is attached to the ballistics section of An Garda Síochána, gave evidence that she arrived at Bray Boxing club at 10.55am on June 5th.

The witness said there was blood on the front step of the stairs leading up the gym and on the inside of the staircase. She also observed a number of discharged cartridge cases at the top of the stairs as she entered the front door of the gym. Nine discharged cartridge cases in total were found at the scene, which was consistent with nine bullets being fired, she said.

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