Callous crime of passion destroyed several lives
IT bore all the hallmarks of a crime of passion -- a case of a jealous ex-boyfriend lying in wait for a man he suspected of being a love rival.
James Hughes had earlier attended a raffle on the night of December 10 at his local Clarnagh Maid pub in the border town of Crossmaglen, Co Armagh.
The raffle had been organised to help raise awareness of sudden adult death syndrome, from which his mother Joan had died last April.
It was thought that Shane Rogers (32) became jealous that night when he spotted the father of three socialising with Patricia Byrne, with whom it is believed Mr Rogers had been previously involved in a relationship.
But it is not clear whether Mr Hughes (35), who had a partner, was romantically involved with the 21-year-old nurse.
At about 4am on December 11, Mr Hughes was gunned down as he sat in the front passenger seat of a taxi in the quiet Cluain Ard, Lis na Mara housing estate on the fringes of Dundalk, Co Louth.
He was blasted twice with a double-barrelled shotgun.
Ms Byrne was injured in the face and neck, while driver Anthony Callan was hit by pellets from the shotgun in the face, neck and upper body. Their injuries were not life-threatening.
Mr Callan managed to escape from the taxi, which crashed into the wall of a nearby house after the first shot.
Mr Rogers, from Inniskeen, Co Monaghan, was the shooter. He chased after the vehicle and fired a second blast through the passenger window.
A witness recalled how Mr Hughes had pleaded for his life just seconds before the second blast.
Mr Rogers made his getaway in a van, before he walked into Carrickmacross garda station after he had made contact with a local sergeant.
Two days after the horrific shooting, Mr Rogers appeared before Dundalk District Court.
Sergeant Kieran Moore told the court that Mr Rogers had repeatedly expressed remorse for his actions and he agreed that he had now become a suicide risk.
Sgt Moore told the court that when Mr Rogers was cautioned, he said: "I apologise to him and to his family and friends and to Trish Byrne. I am sorry for what I did. I cannot live with myself for doing this."
The officer agreed with Mr Rogers's solicitor Martin Crilly that he was devastated and that he had become a suicide risk.
Judge Flan Brennan remanded Mr Rogers in custody to Cloverhill until yesterday and directed that he receive medical and psychiatric attention.
Mr Hughes was a much-loved member of the local community in the border town of Crossmaglen, and a stalwart of the local Gaelic football club, Crossmaglen Rangers, for which he had served as a captain and clinched three All-Ireland medals.
His funeral Mass took place last Friday in the town.
His coffin was carried the short distance from his father's home to the GAA clubhouse, where it paused as a mark of respect, draped in the black and gold flag of the team.
Hundreds packed St Patrick's Church for the Mass, during which parish priest Fr Joseph McKeever said the devastating events of the week had numbed so many.
He spoke of a man whose open-heartedness, kindness, cheer and good nature made many blessed to have his friendship. And he urged mourners not to dishonour Mr Hughes' s memory with thoughts or words of recrimination or incitement.
Ms Byrne lives in the Dundalk estate where she shares a two-storey semi-detached house. Her family home is in the village of Louth, some 11km to the south-west.