Murder trial hears from witnesses who saw van allegedly used in Bray boxing club attack

Firearm used in shooting had no known history in the jurisdiction, garda tells court

The Bray Boxing Club murder trial has heard from a number of witnesses who encountered a van that the prosecution contend was used in the fatal attack that morning.

A Dublin Bus driver told the jury on Tuesday that he saw "a grey or silver Caddy van" travelling "at speed" on the morning of the shooting and it had nearly collided with his vehicle.

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, Bray Harbour, Bray, Co Wicklow during an early morning fitness session on June 5, 2018. He also denies the attempted murder of Mr Taylor and Ian Britton on the same occasion.

Father-of-three Mr Messett died from a single gunshot wound to the head as he took part in the fitness class that morning.


It is the State's case that Mr Cervi was the gunman and that he was later seen with a bicycle and in a van at Pigeon House Road in Ringsend after the shooting.

Several gym goers have given evidence that a man wearing a yellow high-vis jacket and a hard hat had opened fire on the fitness class in the boxing club.

In his opening address, prosecution counsel Paul Murray said gardaí had "a starting point" for the van used in the shooting at Bray Harbour, a "midpoint" for the van at Cabinteely and an "end point" for the van at Pigeon House. "The prosecution say that not only was Mr Cervi the man on the bike, not only was he the man in the van but that he was also the man who entered Bray Boxing Club just before 7am that morning and carried out the shooting," he indicated.

Detective Sergeant Mark Collander, who is attached to the ballistics section of An Garda Síochána, gave evidence on Tuesday that he examined nine discharged cartridge cases and two discharged bullets retrieved from the boxing club on June 5.

The witness said he put one of the discharged cartridges into a ballistics identification system to examine the discharged ammunition and found that the firearm used in the shooting had no known history in the jurisdiction.

Det Sgt Collander said all nine discharged cartridge cases came from the same semi-automatic Glock pistol, which was never recovered.

Milkman Peter Lee testified that he made deliveries to The Harbour Bar in Bray at 6.30am on the morning of June 5 and parked outside the bar. When he got out of his truck, a silver Volkswagen Caddy passed him and it was going in the direction of Bray Boxing club. After he came out of the Harbour Bar having made his delivery, the witness said he saw the same van "coming back out" and noted it had yellow registration plates. "I didn't see where it went, I just know it left the harbour area," he added.

Dublin Bus driver Michael Fox told Mr Murray that his bus route took him along the beach on the morning of June 5 and he made a stop at Bray Road to let people onto the bus. After 15 people or more boarded the bus, Mr Fox said he got ready to move the bus and checked his rear view mirror twice. "I saw this grey or silver van on the outside of the bus and I saw it was going to collide into my bus and I pulled the bus back in and pulled the handbrake," he said.

He said the van went past the bus “at speed” and when he got through the traffic lights at Bray bridge he saw the vehicle was on the wrong side of the road on Castle Street. When the van went ahead of him, Mr Fox said it was like a “Caddy van” and he noticed the yellow registration plates with black writing. He said the driving appeared “very fast” to him. He heard on Radio Nova that morning that there had been a shooting in Bray and a call out for “anyone who had seen a grey or silver van”.

Trish Smith said she lived on a small cul de sac on Willow Grove in Cornelscourt and was walking home from the gym at 7.04am on June 5, when she saw a silver van approach the top of the estate, come to a stop and turn onto Bray Road. She memorised the full registration plate number beginning with DFZ until she got home and then recorded it in her phone which was in her house. She formed a view from the registration plates that the vehicle was from Northern Ireland.

Ms Smith said the dark-haired man in the van was in his thirties, looked tanned, might have had some stubble and was wearing a high-vis jacket and sunglasses. He was four to five metres away from her and the only person in the van.

Under cross-examination, the witness agreed with Anne-Marie Lawlor SC, defending Mr Cervi, that she had seen the driver of the van for “a second” and thought he had stubble but it “could have just easily been a tanned face”.

Garda Declan Lavery said he was on annual leave from Irishtown Garda Station on June 5 and was having work done on his car by a mechanic who lived on Pigeon House Road. The witness said that on foot of a conversation he had with the mechanic he contacted Sergeant Paul Cooke at Irishtown Garda Station.

Sgt Cooke said he received a call from the previous witness at 2.39pm on June 5 and dispatched Garda Victoria Montgomery and Garda Anthony Kelly "to check" Pigeon House Road. The witness said Gda Montgomery contacted him with details of a vehicle which matched the registration plate circulated by Bray Garda Station that morning.

Gda Montgomery said she was on duty on June 5 when she was asked by Sgt Cooke to go to a silver van parked on a grassy verge at Pigeon House Road in Ringsend, which may have had a connection with the shooting at Bray Boxing club that morning. When she arrived at Pigeon House Road, the witness said she observed a grey or silver Volkswagen Caddy van with a registration plate number beginning with DFZ parked up on the grass facing York Road. The van was locked and it was later taken to a compound at Santry Garda Station.

Anthony Byrne, who lives on Pigeon House Road, gave evidence that he was having breakfast at around 8.30am on June 5 when he saw a van with non-Irish registration plates parked on the grassy verge outside his house. When asked if he had noticed anything in or around the van, Mr Byrne said there was a man at the van and a bicycle in the back of the van. "The driver grabbed the bike around the front and parked it against the van on the passenger side," he said, adding that the man then cycled away from the East Link Road and in the direction of Sean Moore Road.

Jennifer Byrne, the daughter of the last witness, testified that she lives with her father on Pigeon House Road and starts work at 8.30am. When they left the house at 8.15am on June 5, Ms Byrne said she noticed a van "across the way" on the grass and a man. There was a bicycle "leant up" against the side of the van, which had foreign registration plates. "As I was getting into the passenger side of the car, I noticed the bicycle and a man wearing a yellow high-vis jacket, who looked like he was leaning down to fix his trousers," she said.

Ms Byrne said she did not see the man’s face. “I thought it was someone looking for parking who was working in the area and would then cycle to wherever he was going,” she remarked. When the witness returned to Pigeon House Road at 1.30pm that day she noticed that the van was still there. She said her father had been listening to the news and they called gardaí.

In cross-examination, Ms Byrne told Ms Lawlor that she saw the man at the back of the van. In re-examination, the witness told Mr Murray that she assumed the man had taken the bike out of the back of the van.

Bronwin Thomson, who lived at Pigeon Street Road in 2018, said she left the house to walk her daughter to school at 8.10am on June 5, when she noticed a man with a van parked on a grassy verge across the road. She said the road was used as "a bit of a communal car park" at the time and a lot of people were parking on the grassy verge. Being "a slightly angry resident", Ms Thomson said she noticed the man get out of the vehicle onto the grassy verge.

Describing the van, Ms Thomson said it had an English registration and was like a “work van or transit type van” with a sliding door on the side. “When he was getting out of the van he had a bicycle and was putting on a high-vis vest. He was getting on the bike, which came from inside the van and the doors were open,” she explained.

The witness said the man, who was dressed in dark clothing, had a backpack on his back and put a “neon orange high-vis vest” over the bag. “He looked like he was hurrying a little but trying to get going. I just assumed it was someone going to work on a building site,” she added.

She said the man was between 30 and 35 years of age, under six foot and had dark hair.

Ms Thomson told Ms Lawlor that she was certain she could have clearly identified the man again but said that when it came down to doing a “photo fit” with gardaí “it was hard to do”. The photo fit was made available to the jury.

Addressing the jury on Tuesday evening, Mr Justice Michael White said that it had previously been indicated to them that there would be a substantial period of time when matters were dealt with in their absence. “That will start tomorrow and it will run until July 28 and it could run a little bit later,” said the judge, adding that he did not require their presence until then and they would be notified if there was a further delay.