Wednesday 28 September 2016

Ordinary day at hotel turns into terrifying bloodbath

Published 06/02/2016 | 02:30

A man’s body is removed from the scene of the shooting at the Regency Hotel last night
A man’s body is removed from the scene of the shooting at the Regency Hotel last night

It was an ordinary Friday afternoon for staff in the capital's Regency Hotel. Tourists and guests checked in and out, the bar was bustling with hungry customers, and workers were busy preparing for an event in the function room.

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But what was to be a routine boxing weigh-in, attracting hundreds of eager fight fans, soon turned into a bloodbath.

Shortly after 2.20pm yesterday three armed men, reportedly dressed as gardaí and brandishing automatic weapons, stormed into the banquet hall and opened fire.

"We host functions like this all the time," said one staff member.

"Anything from poker tournaments to mixed martial arts to boxing. Sometimes you might get some alcohol-related trouble but nothing like this. It is just so surreal," they added.

"To think this has happened here is just... there are no words. We have many tourists staying here and they have all had to be let out.

"And the kids too. There were kids here in the room with their favourite fighters' T-shirts on, wanting to see the boxers. What if there was a stray bullet?"

The scene, located just metres away from tree-lined Griffith Avenue, remained sealed off last night. A body strewn with bullets lay inside.

Confused tourists arriving at the hotel for the weekend tried to cross the Garda crime scene tape only to be told to get back.

"I'm here on business for the weekend and I am heading to the match on Sunday but I don't know what's going on," said David Steele from Leeds.

"The police aren't telling me anything. I've asked them if I should call my travel insurance company to book another hotel and they said it was up to me. It's not the kind of Irish welcome I was expecting."

Another elderly couple, also from the UK, said the incident had left them in shock.

"It is unbelievable," said 78-year-old Bethel Cross from Hampshire. "The hotel and staff are all so lovely. I am worried it will affect their business.

"It is very cold out here at the moment, it's lashing rain and we don't know if we have a place to stay tonight or not.

"All our belongings are inside and we can't go in."

One of the fighters due to take to the ring said at one point he was just 15 metres away from the gunmen.

"What can I say? All hell broke loose. I thought I was a dead man. This kind of thing has no place at a sporting event. It is dragging the sport down," he said.

Residents also struggled last night to get home as the road outside the hotel was closed to the public, leaving hundreds stranded at both ends.

Local man Mark Norbury said the area had been left in shock after the event but said another gangland slaying last year had somewhat numbed its sensitivity to the violence.

"We had a shooting in Drumcondra last year ...so I'm less shocked at this one but it still is awful."

Irish Independent

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