| 4.2°C Dublin

Dancers give evidence at trial of accused gunman

TWO foreign nationals employed by a dance company in Limerick have described witnessing a near-fatal shooting in the city two years ago.

The pair had been working in a converted church in St John's Square on May 24, 2010 when they saw a gunman open fire at a car which braked and then reversed at speed.

The driver of the car, Daniel Philips (20), was shot in the head and chest and spent over a month in a coma before making what doctors described as a “remarkable recovery”.

Shane Mason (30) of Seán Heuston Place, Limerick, has denied attempting to murder Mr Philips at St John's Square in the city on May 24, 2010.

He has also pleaded not (NOT) guilty to three charges of causing serious harm to Mr Philips, and possessing a firearm and ammunition with intent to kill him.

Mr Jesse Den Dulk, a Dutch dancer employed by Daghdha Dance Company at the time, told the court he had been sitting on a bench in St John's Square with some friends at 9.25pm when he heard a car pulling up and simultaneously heard shots.

“I saw the shooter coming from the right, with the gun in both hands, firing at the car,” he said.

He described the gunman being of a wide muscular build with short blonde hair, wearing a bright blue tee-shirt.

Ms Isabella Oberlander, an Austrian choreographer also employed by Daghda Dance Company, said she was also sitting with colleagues on the bench when a black car stopped abruptly and she heard two loud bangs.

“The car was trying to reverse quickly, noisily; I saw a guy coming out of the alleyway pointing a gun at the car, he fired three more shots and I ducked and ran outside,” she told the court.

Ms Oberlander described the gunman as very muscular, with short light hair and a blue tee-shirt.

CCTV footage played on video in court identified Shane Mason in O'Sullivan's Pharmacy in Limerick city on the evening of the shooting, wearing a blue tee-shirt and dark tracksuit bottoms.

Detective Garda Ivan Muldoon showed the jury further CCTV footage of a man wearing a blue tee-shirt and dark tracksuit bottoms cycling a pushbike past the Square Bar on St John's Square at 9.24pm on the same night.

“I've no doubt in my mind that that's Shane Mason,” said Garda Muldoon.

The same CCTV camera showed a similarly dressed man on a pushbike cycling in the opposite direction a few minutes later, at 9.28pm.

The jury was told that having spent over six months in hospital and rehabilitation centres recovering from his gunshot injuries, Mr Philips is now living with his aunt and uncle and studying for his Leaving Certificate.

A medical report read out in court said the shooting has left Mr Philips with a drop foot, slight difficulties with balance, occasional forgetfulness and slurred speech, but that doctors expect him to make “a full recovery in the long-term”.

The trial continues at the Central Criminal Court tomorrow before Judge Garret Sheehan and a jury of seven men and five women.

It's expected to last until the end of next week.