There was "chaos and screaming" in the aftermath of the gun murder of Tyrone dissident Michael Barr during a raffle for the families of Republican prisoners at a Dublin pub, eye witnesses have told the Special Criminal Court.
On the night of April 25th, 2016, father-of-five Mr Barr was socialising at the pub, where he was a manager, and was shot seven times - five times in the head - after two armed males burst in wearing what have been described as ‘Freddy Krueger’, or Hallowe’en masks.
Christopher Slator (37) of Carnlough Road, Cabra, Dublin 7, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Barr at the Sunset House pub on Summerhill Parade in Dublin 1 on April 25th, 2016. He is the third man to go on trial at the non-jury court for the murder.
On Wednesday, witness James Dunne, a former soldier, told Dominic McGinn SC, prosecuting, that he was in the pub on the night of the shooting and that he was there to help out with raffling off a bodhrán in aid of the families of Republican prisoners.
Mr Dunne told Mr McGinn that he brought his daughter to the bar for the raffle, for which he was selling tickets, and said that there had been a good atmosphere in the pub.
Mr Dunne said he saw a male, who he initially thought was a “prankster”, enter the bar with what the witness believed to be possibly a 9mm handgun. He thought it may have been a Glock pistol or a semi-automatic weapon due to the repetitive nature of the shooting. The witness said he thought there was a silencer on the weapon because the shots, which he believed numbered four, sounded like “party poppers”. Mr Dunne told counsel that he thought the shooter was around six-feet tall and said that he wore a ski-mask or balaclava.
Mr Dunne told Jennifer Jackson BL, defending, that the male had entered the pub from directly behind him and that the gunman had two hands on the gun during the shooting. In re-examination, the witness told Mr McGinn that he believed the gunman wore a ski-mask over a Hallowe’en mask and that he dressed all in black.
Kathleen Deane told the court that she was also a patron of the pub on the night and heard what she initially thought were two-or-three "bangers" going off before she jumped on the floor. Ms Deane told Mr McGinn that "chaos" then ensued and that people were "screaming and running".
Nepalese barman, Keshav Paudel, said that he was a part-time worker at the bar while studying for a Masters and that the Monday was his third night working in the pub. Mr Paudel said that he had started work at around 5pm but that the night was a "good natured" one and that more people came into the pub for the raffle between 7 and 7.30pm.
Mr Paudel said that Mr Barr was at the end of the bar at its hatch drinking with friends but that he also helped out in pulling pints when the night got busier. The witness said that some time after 9.20pm he heard three bangs and that he jumped towards the hatch. He said that a patron then gave him a mobile from which he rang the gardaí. Mr Paudel said he heard someone say "the bastards" and "Mickey, shot dead" but only saw one male leave through a door on the Ballybough side of the pub, who he described as around 5'8" tall.
Stephen Clifford said he and Mr Dunne were organising the raffle on the night and that there had been a good atmosphere in the pub. Mr Clifford said he saw two males with masks on, wearing dark clothes, and said that one of the men was "right on top" of Mr Barr. He said that one male stood at the bar and that the other pulled the trigger on Mr Barr.
Mr Clifford described the Hallowe’en masks as “rubbery and skin-coloured” and said that they could both cover the head and could be pulled down over the neck. The witness said that he heard four shots and that when he went to check Mr Barr he could see blood coming from both sides of the deceased’s neck.
Mr Clifford said that a “silencer” had been used on the weapon and that he first thought what he was seeing was a “joke” before “chaos” and “screaming” broke out.
Patricia O’Leary said she was also in the bar and saw two figures with “horrible things” covering their faces before people started screaming. After the shooting Ms O’Leary said she crawled over to Mr Barr and placed a cloth over his face and gave Mr Paudel her phone for him to ring the gardaí.
Another witness said she was sitting at the bar when she heard the door squeaking open behind her and saw two men enter the bar, one behind the other, wearing masks covering their face and heads. She said that she, too, thought the men’s presence in the bar was part of a joke, or a “kissogram”, until the mirror behind the bar was shot by one of them.
This witness told Michael Bowman SC, defending, that the height difference between the two men could have been between four-to-six inches.
In his opening speech on Monday, Mr McGinn said that on the night of the murder gardaí arrived at the scene of a burning Audi at nearby Walsh Road in Drumcondra "before the fire had taken hold". He said gardaí were able to recover four firearms, two of which will be shown, through ballistics, to have been used in the shooting. Mr McGinn said the State will show that boiler suits, full "theatrical head masks with a face on the front" and a balaclava were also recovered from the Audi.
Mr McGinn said it is the State's case that three DNA profiles taken from masks and balaclavas in the car revealed Mr Slator's profile to be present on a mask and a pair of gloves. Another DNA profile from the masks and a baseball cap, said counsel, belonged to Eamon Cumberton, of Mountjoy Street, Dublin 7, who was jailed for life for the murder in 2019.
In November 2020, David Hunter (43) of Du Cane Road, White City, London, was also jailed for life for the murder of Mr Barr but has since appealed the conviction.
The trial will resume before Ms Justice Tara Burns, presiding at the three-judge court, on Tuesday, May 3rd.