Rampage: Three 999 calls unanswered as gunmen launched shooting spree
Hotel owner tells how gunman 'made sure' hit victim was dead
Published 07/02/2016 | 02:30
Hotel owner James McGettigan has told how he repeatedly tried but failed to contact the gardai as he witnessed two hitmen gun down their gangland rival.
Mr McGettigan, owner of the Regency Hotel, Dublin, tried three times to raise the alarm, but when his calls went unanswered, he was forced to hang up and call a Garda friend instead.
The stunned businessman saw the assassination of David Byrne, from Crumlin, unfold through a window.
"He was shot three times, twice in the body and once in the head," he said.
"These guys made sure he was killed. There was smoke coming out of his body."
Mr McGettigan, whose family have run the business for years, told how he could not raise the alarm on the 999 emergency number, eventually making contact with a personal friend who is a garda.
"I ran out towards the exit and decided to go into a small residents' lounge. I saw a girl on the way there and I said to her: 'Ring the guards immediately.' "She said: 'The guards are here already.' That's how much confusion there was."
Inside the residents' lounge, he locked the door, took out his phone and dialled 999, but was either kept on hold or the line was engaged.
"I tried three times and eventually I got through," he said. "I told the man what had happened. He said he would have to put me through to the Dublin division. But that kept ringing and ringing. The man said they'll answer it any second now. Eventually, I just hung up. It could have been 25 seconds on the phone but it felt like two minutes."
He rang a detective friend instead: "I told him what was going on. He said: 'I'll get someone there immediately.'"
As gunfire raged, an unknown number of gunmen prowled calmly through terrified people, searching for their targets. "It was very hard to know who was a garda and who wasn't. I did not want to come out of that room unless I knew that there were genuine gardai in the lobby."
Around four minutes after his phone call, the first fire brigade arrived at the scene, followed by an ambulance and then the gardai arrived.
The attack has been widely condemned by senior politicians, whose parties have frequently used the venue for events and meetings.
While on the campaign trail yesterday morning, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: "It is an appalling incident that happened in broad daylight in a family-run hotel. I have spoken to the Minister for Justice this morning and she has assured the Garda Commissioner that whatever resources are needed will be provided."