Westport man shot dead in Nigeria


An Irish engineer was shot dead after he was ambushed in southeastern Nigeria while his driver was seriously injured in the attack, it has emerged.

Robert Gray (45), a native of Westport, Co Mayo, had worked for a number of years in Nigeria and was involved in road construction projects with Irish company PW when the incident occurred between 2pm and 3pm yesterday.

It is understood Mr Gray was working in southeastern Nigeria, near the Cameroon border, when the fatal attack occurred. Sources close to the family said the precise details were still not clear but that he may have been travelling between different PW projects.

When contacted today a company spokeswoman declined to comment on Mr Gray’s death.

Founded in 1948 by Hugo V Flinn, PW is an international company with an Irish office in Kilcoole, Co Wicklow. According to its website, the company also has offices in Nigeria and Ghana.

PW operates on two continents and in several sectors including civil engineering, gold and bauxite mining and the oil and gas industry. Currently it has over 30 projects in Africa, most in Nigeria. They are valued at over $680 million (€542 million).

The Irish Times understands Mr Gray, who was married with young teenage daughters, had recently expressed concerns about his safety and was considering returning home.

Mr Gray, who was from a well-known Westport family, travelled home regularly and returned home for his twin daughters’ confirmation earlier this year. They were due to start first year at the local Sacred Heart Secondary School on Monday next.

Mr Gray’s widow, Jeanette Kearns, is also a native of Westport and works as a nurse in the Mac Bride Nursing Home.

Westport priest Fr Karl Burns confirmed he had visited the family after they received the tragic news late last night.

“This is an awful tragedy for the family who are reeling from the shocking news. It is a very sensitive time, and they need privacy and our prayers,” Fr Burns said.

Local TD and Minister for State Michael Ring said: “I knew Robert’s family very well, and this is just a terrible tragedy. He was a young man and now has left a wife and children behind him. As this terrible news seeps out through our tightly-knit community people are very upset.”

Fianna Fáil town councillor Brendan Mulroy grew up beside Robert on Horkans Hill, Westport.

“The whole area is just devastated by the news. We all knew Robert very well, even though he had worked abroad for a number of years, because his family still lives in the town he was still part of the community.

"I remember growing up on Horkans Hill, Robert was very highly respected, and he always looked out for the younger lads on the estate” Cllr Mulroy said.

A spokesman at the Department of Foreign Affairs said they are providing consular assistance for the family.

A family friend said the body is expected to be repatriated early next week.