Thursday 21 February 2019

Man (23) killed and friend shot in gangland attack outside gym

Zach Parker (inset) was shot dead in the attack in Swords, Co Dublin.
Zach Parker (inset) was shot dead in the attack in Swords, Co Dublin.
The scene of the shooting at Applewood Close, Swords this morning. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
The scene of the shooting at Applewood Close, Swords this morning. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
The scene of the shooting at Applewood Close, Swords this morning. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
The scene of the shooting at Applewood Close, Swords this morning. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Ken Foy, Conor Feehan and Conor McCrave

A 23-year-old man was shot dead and his friend seriously injured as they left a gym last night.

The dead man was named locally as Zach Parker, a professional barber.

The two men were ambushed as they left the gym at Applewood Close in Swords, north Dublin at about 7.30pm.

Shots were fired as they sat in a sports utility vehicle outside the gym. Mr Parker was shot in the head and chest and died at the scene.

General view of Gardai corden near scene of shooting in Applewood, Swords
Picture: Caroline Quinn
General view of Gardai corden near scene of shooting in Applewood, Swords Picture: Caroline Quinn

His friend - a man in his mid-twenties - suffered serious injuries to his arm and chest.

The shooting, the latest in a series of gangland killings, came on the orders of a criminal gang.

Senior sources say that the attack is linked to a local drugs dispute.

Supt Gerry Donnelly of Swords garda station today said Gardai believe that Zach Parker was the intended target off the attack from footage of the crime scene captured on CCTV.

Parker’s friend who was sitting in the passenger seat received serious injuries from stray bullets, and will undergo surgery in Beaumont Hospital later today.

“Two young men in their early to mid 20s attended Gym Plus here and left that premises shortly before 7.30pm. They made their way to a parked BMW X5 car and drove out onto Applewood Close, and made their way from there up towards Jugback Lane,” he said.

General view of Gardai near scene of shooting in Applewood, Swords
Picture: Caroline Quinn
General view of Gardai near scene of shooting in Applewood, Swords Picture: Caroline Quinn

“As they were approaching Jugback Lane a lone gunman approached the side of the car and discharged at least five shots in,to the driver’s side window fatally injuring the driver, Zachary Parker, and injuring the front seat passenger, a 25 year old man from the Swords area.

“That man is currently in Beaumont Hospital. He is in a stable condition and will undergo surgery this afternoon, but my understanding is his injuries are not life threatening,” Supt Donnelly added.

“After the shooting the gunman left on foot out onto Jugback Lane. At that point we don’t have a direction of travel or if he was assisted by a getaway vehicle. The gunman is described as tall, athletic build, wearing a black type hoodie top with a black scarf wrapped around his face. He had black tracksuit bottoms in him, black runners with white soles, and what is significant about him is he had a rucksack in his back which was a lighter colour, possibly grey, and we believe the handgun that was used in this shooting was concealed in that rucksack,” he explained.

This morning members of the garda technical bureau combed the area for any evidence that might lead to the killers.

General view of Gardai near scene of shooting in Applewood, Swords
Picture: Caroline Quinn
General view of Gardai near scene of shooting in Applewood, Swords Picture: Caroline Quinn

Members of the garda technical bureau also checked a potential second crime scene in the field behind the gym.

Evidence of a small fire was found and it was being examined to establish if it was relevant to the case or co-incidental.

“It’s not as big as a getaway car or anything like that, but is being routinely examined in case it was an effort to destroy evidence such as clothing or anything,” said a garda spokesman.

Last April, Mr Parker appeared before Swords District Court and pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine worth €2,950, as well as to having the drug for sale or supply at the Malahide Roundabout in February 2017.

At this early stage of the murder investigation, it's understood one line of inquiry gardaí are looking at is that the deceased man owed money for drugs to a local criminal gang.

One local resident who lives near the gym described the situation as "crazy", adding: "I can't believe something like this happened."

Another local resident, Martin White, was standing at his door when he heard the shots go off.

"I was just talking to a friend of mine on the phone standing at the door and I heard four gunshots going off," he said.

"The guy I was talking to on the phone said, 'Are you sure its not fireworks?' and I said no because I knew from the intermittent sounds. After about five minutes, the fire brigade arrived and then the ambulance.

"I'm really shocked because the gym is very busy but the area is nice."

Another local resident, who has lived in the area for the past two years and asked not to be named, said it was unusual to hear of this kind of activity in the area.

"This happened outside a well-known gym with people from every walk of life going to it," he said.

"You'd think it was a one-off and you'd hope it would be a one-off when the area doesn't have a history or record for guns and that.

"You would get your Saturday night trouble like you do anywhere but nothing like this and people losing their life."

When Mr Parker appeared before Swords District Court last year, his defence lawyer Annette Kealy said the defendant had turned to drugs as a coping mechanism after his grandmother became terminally ill.

"He cared for her and relied on her. He began to take drugs as a coping mechanism and got into a drug habit," said Ms Kealy.

She said the defendant, who had worked as a barber, lost his job as a result of his arrest on the drugs charge.

"He is regretful and now free of drugs," she said, adding that he had €1,000 in court as a charitable contribution.

"He is fundamentally a person of good character and was going through a bad patch."

Judge Dermot Dempsey ordered Parker to complete 240 hours of community service in lieu of three months in prison, and that €1,000 be paid to the Merchants Quay Project.

Gardai have appealed for any witnesses who may have been in the Applewood area, particularly around the premises of Gym Plus, Applewood Close, Jugback Lane and the Balheary Road area of Swords, and any motorist who may have dashcam footage, particularly from 6.30pm to 8.00pm, to contact Swords garda station on 6664700 or the garda confidential line on 1800666111.

Irish Independent

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