Friday 15 November 2019

Boxing club's future in doubt after gun attack

Councillors worried about security at gym where innocent man was shot dead

COMFORT: Mr Taylor’s girlfriend Karen Brown arrives at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin to visit the wounded boxing coach
COMFORT: Mr Taylor’s girlfriend Karen Brown arrives at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin to visit the wounded boxing coach
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

The future of Bray Boxing Club is expected to be reviewed by the local authority following the gun attack that left one man dead and injured two others.

The club has become synonymous with Pete Taylor, who coached his daughter Katie to an Olympic gold medal at London 2012. Mr Taylor, reportedly the intended target of the gunman, was shot in the upper body but survived.

Bobby Messett, an innocent bystander at the club for an early-morning training session, died after being shot in the head. A third man, also at the club for a gym session, was shot in the leg.

The attack has raised concerns among local councillors over future security at the publicly funded club.

Gerry Walsh, a Fianna Fail councillor who is on Wicklow's joint policing committee, said the shooting would probably be raised at its next meeting in July. "A totally innocent person lost his life and that is the most pressing issue here," said Cllr Walsh, who added that the Garda investigation was at an early stage and would have to take its course.

"We will be raising the overall situation of the gym. The council was in control of the premises and it was intended to be a community facility."

Cllr Walsh said the future of the club would now have to be reviewed. The previously spartan building was renovated and extended in 2014 by Bray Town Council, with grants of €190,000 and €100,000 of its own funds.

Detectives trying to establish the motive for the attack are investigating several theories. They suspect that the shooting was commissioned locally, possibly by people operating in Wicklow and the south Dublin area.

Mr Taylor, who remains in hospital this weekend, is understood to have spoken to gardai a number of times since the attack and there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing on his part.

The shooting happened just before 7am last Tuesday, when a gunman walked into the gym as Mr Taylor was preparing to take a training class.

Superintendent Pat Ward later outlined what happened to reporters: "There was about 15 or 20 people in the gym. They were just about to start their session when somebody came in, a gunman. He was carrying a firearm, we believe it was a handgun. He started opening fire just as they were about to start the session."

Bobby Messett was shot in the head and fatally wounded while Ian Britton was shot in the legs.

The gunman left the building, got into a Volkswagen Caddy and drove away, leaving mayhem in his wake. He drove the van to Pigeon House Road, in the south inner city, where he parked up. He was captured on CCTV removing a bike from the back and riding away.

The van is being examined, together with more than 240 hours of CCTV footage, to try to identify the gunman, who may have been commissioned to carry out the attack. According to reports last week, gardai are looking at a shortlist of suspects from the north inner city.

Mr Taylor, who is English, came to Ireland to work in an amusement arcade in Bray and stayed on. He is a boxer turned coach, who trained his daughter Katie, helping her to Olympic glory at London 2012. At Rio four years later, they had parted company.

Katie Taylor issued a statement to express her sorrow to Mr Messett's family, but she also criticised the media for using her name in reporting on the shooting. "As many of you know, I have been somewhat estranged from my dad for a number of years now. I've had little contact with him in the last three years and no contact or association whatsoever with Bray Boxing Club since 2015," she said.

"I have been appalled by the misuse of my name and image during the reporting of this incident in the media coverage. It has been reckless and irresponsible, and a deliberate attempt to inappropriately leverage my name to sell a story.

"I urge the media to leave me, my mum and other family members out of this story.

"Finally, to Bobby's family: You didn't deserve this heartache, I'm so sorry for your loss."

Mr Messett (50) was laid to rest in Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow, last Friday. At his funeral mass, his son Gary told hundreds of mourners how sport played a huge part in his father's life. "It is where he made most of his closest friends starting in Glencormac United right through to cycling and all the ones in between," he said.

"My da never sat still for a minute, he loved to keep busy and he did just that. He has left a huge void in our lives that will never be filled again."

Sunday Independent

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