Woman recalls holding toddler as partner shot dead outside home

Gerald ‘Topper’ Staunton had put girl (7) into back of car when lone gunman attacked him

Karen Quilligan O’Flynn told an inquest that her partner, Gerald ‘Topper’ Staunton (41), had  placed her  daughter (7) in the back seat of his car and was about to get into the driver’s seat when a lone gunman apprached and shot him. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Karen Quilligan O’Flynn told an inquest that her partner, Gerald ‘Topper’ Staunton (41), had placed her daughter (7) in the back seat of his car and was about to get into the driver’s seat when a lone gunman apprached and shot him. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

A woman has recalled seeing her partner shot dead outside their home in Co Cork as she stood holding her two-year-old daughter just a few feet away.

Karen Quilligan O’Flynn told an inquest that her partner, Gerald ‘Topper’ Staunton (41) had placed her other daughter (7) in the back seat of his car and was about to get into the driver’s seat when she heard someone running outside their house at West Lawn in Wilton at 8pm on January 20th, 2010.

“I heard the sound of someone running up and I saw a man dressed all in black, wearing a black balaclava and carrying what looked a sawn off shotgun,” Ms Quilligan O’Flynn said.

“Topper raised his left arm and said ‘ah don’t’ and he turned. With that there were two loud bangs one after another. The gunman was only five to six feet from Topper and I was directly behind...”

She told how the gunman fled and Mr Staunton managed to get around to the back of his car before collapsing on the ground with a gunshot wound to the stomach. She recalled some neighbours, including two young nurses, coming to her assistance and attempting to stop the flow of blood from the wound.

Gardaí and the emergency services were quickly on the scene but Mr Staunton, originally from the Hollyhill area of Cork, was pronounced dead in an ambulance at 8.20pm.

The inquest heard evidence that a red Hiace van, which was parked nearby in Whiteoaks, took off from the scene at speed and was found burned out some 20 minutes later at Castlewhite Cemetery in Waterfall, some 6km from the scene of the shooting.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said Mr Staunton had been hit first in the left elbow and shoulder but the second shot was fatal and he died from shock and haemorrhage with lacerations to the lung, heart and aorta due to a shotgun wound to the chest.

Real IRA

Mr Staunton had a conviction for drug dealing. The Real IRA issued a statement through the 32 County Sovereignty Movement to the Evening Echo in which it claimed responsibility for the murder and warned drug dealers to desist in their activities.

Ms Quilligan O’Flynn told the inquest her partner was not in dispute with anyone.

“To the best of my knowledge, Topper was not in fear of anyone or in dispute with anyone...I don’t think he owed anyone any money or anyone owed him any substantial amount of money.”

Supt Charlie Barry of Togher Garda station, who is heading up the investigation into Mr Staunton’s murder, said a team of 60 gardaí had worked on the case and some 500 inquiries had been completed and CCTV footage was obtained from 180 premises.

Gardaí took over 600 statements, carried out searches at 14 premises in Cork city and west Cork and analysed phone records belonging to suspects while some seven people had been arrested for questioning and the investigation was ongoing, he said.

After the jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing, Cork City Coroner Philip Comyn extended his sympathies to Ms Quilligan O’Flynn on the loss of her partner and to Mr Staunton’s father and his siblings on the loss of their loved one.