Tuesday 24 October 2017

Neighbours identify accused gunman seen fleeing scene

Jessica Magee

A MAN seen fleeing the scene of a near-fatal shooting in Limerick two years ago has been identified by several of his neighbours.

Shane Mason (30) has denied attempting to murder Daniel Philips (24) at St John's Square in Limerick on May 24, 2010.



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



The court heard Mr Philips spent nearly a month in a coma after he was shot in the head and abdomen, but has since made a remarkable recovery.



Two of Mr Philips' friends who were with him in his black Volkswagon Passat on the night have described how he slumped over the wheel and lost consciousness after he was shot.



Ms Emer O'Connell (29), a former heroin addict who lived at St John's Square, told the court that she and her then boyfriend had just gotten out of a taxi on the night in question when shots were fired at the car in front of them.



“It was all just a blur, I didn't recognise anyone,” she said in court, but later agreed that she told gardaí she had seen the accused running from the scene.



“I only knew Shane Mason, he was running towards Mason's Lane, I know him very well since I was 14 years old,” she told gardaí, however she told the jury that she is no longer certain it was the accused “cos it was getting dark and I was on drugs”.



Local butcher Mr George Russell (71), a neighbour of the Mason family for over thirty years, told gardaí that he and his wife had been watching the evening news when they heard what he thought was banging at their shop window.



He said he went to the shop window and saw a man of about 6ft in height, of muscular build, wearing a blue t-shirt and navy bottoms and with a tight haircut, walking towards the church.



Mr Russell said a few minutes later he saw “one of the Masons cycling very fast” towards the Square Bar, wearing a blue t-shirt.



“I think it was the same person I saw a moment earlier walking in the square, as he had the same build and haircut,” he told gardaí.



However Mr Russell told the court today that he had experienced doubts about his initial statement to the gardaí as he had not read over it himself before signing it, and that in fact all he had seen of the person walking was “a side profile...a flash of blue from an upper garment.”



Mr Martin McNamara (22), who had been been living adjacent to St John's Square for a few weeks at the time, told gardaí he had been walking towards the square when he saw a man wearing a dark blue tee-shirt cycling towards him.



Mr McNamara said he saw the man get off the bike, take out a black handgun and start shooting at a car which was “screeching” to a halt and then reversing.



“I could see sparks from the bullets hitting the car,” he told gardaí, and then described how the gunman had put the gun down his pants and picked up his bike.



Giving evidence at the Central Criminal Court, Mr McNamara initially gave a much shorter account to the jury, saying only that he had heard shots going off.



“I knew it was gunshots so I kept my head down and kept walking, then my mother dragged me into the house,” he said.



Mr McNamara subsequently agreed with Ms Úna Ní Raifertaigh, prosecuting, that the statement he had made to gardaí had been largely correct and that he had earlier left out important bits of his evidence because he was “nervous”.



“He was wearing a red Munster shirt, but everything else was accurate,” agreed the witness.



The court also heard that cartridges and bullets were found at the scene that had been fired from a Glock semi-automatic pistol, although the gun was never recovered.



The jury will hear that Shane Mason was wearing a bullet proof vest when he was arrested about an hour after the shooting



The trial, which is due to last up to three weeks, resumes next Monday.



It is being heard before Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and a jury of seven men and five women.

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