Man in drag guilty of murdering pigeon enthusiast with sub-machine gun

Keith Walker (36) was shot multiple times in a Dublin car park in 2015

Christopher McDonald had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Keith Walker (36), at the Blanchardstown Pigeon Racing Club car park on Shelerin Road (general view above), Clonsilla, on June 12th, 2015. File photograph: Google Street View

Christopher McDonald had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Keith Walker (36), at the Blanchardstown Pigeon Racing Club car park on Shelerin Road (general view above), Clonsilla, on June 12th, 2015. File photograph: Google Street View

 

A Dublin man has been convicted of murdering a pigeon enthusiast with a sub-machine gun in a busy car park while dressed as a woman.

Christopher McDonald (34), from the East Wall area, was found guilty by unanimous verdict following more than two hours of jury deliberations at the Central Criminal Court.

McDonald had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Keith Walker (36), at the Blanchardstown Pigeon Racing Club car park on Shelerin Road, Clonsilla, on June 12th, 2015.

Before Justice Patrick McCarthy sentenced McDonald to life imprisonment, the deceased’s wife, Lorraine Walker, and sister, Michelle Walker, told the court of the impact the murder had on their family.

Lorraine Walker described her husband as her soulmate and best friend. They were childhood sweethearts and had been together for 17 years.

Her family, she said, was normal and happy until the day she received a phone call to say her husband, the father of her two boys, had been “brutally murdered”.

Telling her children their father was gone and would not be coming back was one of the hardest things she had ever done, she said. “The look on their faces will never leave me.”

Michelle Walker said her brother was the eldest of three siblings, and that his strength and love had helped the family cope with the loss of their mother in 2014. She described him as a man of simplicity and humour, who could convert a room of strangers into a room of friends.

After passing sentence, Mr Justice McCarthy also thanked the jury and exempted them from further service for 10 years.

Evidence in trial

Mr Walker was shot dead as he stood chatting with fellow pigeon enthusiasts. He had arrived at the club at 5.31pm in a car belonging to his friend Jason O’Connor. He was carrying pigeons belonging to Mr O’Connor and the pair planned to travel to Manchester that night ahead of a weekend of racing.

Mr O’Connor made a statement to gardaí and was due to give evidence on day two of the trial, but when he was called he lunged at the accused and was held back by prison officers and a garda.

After the jury was asked to leave the court, prosecuting counsel Denis Vaughan Buckley said McDonald had called Mr O’Connor a “rat” and this was what sparked the spat.

As the trial continued, the jury was shown CCTV footage of a person hanging around the pigeon club car park from about 4.20pm that day. This individual was not identified in court but the prosecution case was that it was McDonald, dressed in drag, waiting to carry out the hit.

Several witnesses said they saw a man dressed in women’s gym clothes in the area, carrying a handbag and wearing a long black wig.

One person reported him to gardaí after seeing him hanging around a creche beside the pigeon club.

At 6pm, CCTV showed Mr Walker talking to club member Mark Kelly and at 6.01pm the hit-man entered through the main gate, pulled a gun from a handbag and opened fire before escaping.

Bullet wounds

A postmortem found Mr Walker was hit 18 times and died from bullet wounds to his head and body.

Four days after the shooting, gardaí found the gun used to kill Mr Walker in a laneway at Sheepmoor Grove, about 1km from the pigeon club.

The 9mm calibre Makarov sub-machine gun was inside a brown, furry River Island handbag and alongside it were a black wig and a transparent latex glove.

Forensic testing identified McDonald’s DNA as being on the wig and glove, both of which also contained traces of firearms residue.

None of the witnesses who saw the shooter on the day were asked to identify McDonald and CCTV showing the shooting was not clear enough for identification.

The prosecution relied on the evidence of two teenage boys who met the gunman on his way to the pigeon club. The boys said they met a man dressed in women’s clothes, with long hair and carrying a handbag.

They both noted that he had a cut over his right eye and was wearing make-up. He asked them for directions to the pigeon club and then walked away quickly.

When gardaí arrested McDonald in the early hours of the following morning, he had a visible cut over his right eye, matching what the boys described.

Gardaí also said they saw what they believed to be make-up on his face.