Thursday 24 January 2019

'I am utterly heartbroken' - Pete Taylor breaks silence on Bray shooting that killed friend

Pete Taylor. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Pete Taylor. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Alan O'Keeffe and Maeve Sheehan

Devastated Pete Taylor has spoken of being “utterly heartbroken” following the deadly gun attack at Bray Boxing Club which claimed the life of his friend.

Taylor, father of Olympic gold medallist Katie, was wounded in the arm and chest and his friend Bobby Messett was killed in the attack by the lone gunman last Tuesday morning. Another man, Ian Britton, was shot in the legs.

In his first public statement since the attack, he told the Sunday Independent: “I cannot believe what has happened.”

He said: “Words will never explain my excruciating anguish and devastation at the horrific, senseless attack at Bray Boxing Club.

“Bobby was my close friend, training partner and sparring mate. I am utterly heartbroken that he is gone,” he said.

“I cannot fathom the excruciating pain and heartache that this horrendous incident has inflicted on Bobby’s family. I cannot imagine their loss. To Bobby’s family and the members of Bray Boxing Club who are my extended family, I express more sorrow than you may ever know or can believe,” he added.

Meanwhile, the future of Bray Boxing Club is expected to be reviewed by the local authority following the gun attack.

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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