AN innocent young plumber caught in the middle of a gangland assassination made a final desperate attempt to fend off his killers before he was callously shot dead.
Anthony Campbell (20), from Smithfield, central Dublin, was killed by a single bullet fired at close range from a semi-automatic handgun.
An inquest into his death heard the young man had both arms raised above his head in a defensive posture when the bullet passed through his left arm before entering his head, killing him almost immediately.
His distraught mother Christine, who sat through the chilling evidence at the Dublin County Coroner's Court yesterday, said afterwards: "I'm just devastated. I can't even put it into words."
The apprentice plumber had the misfortune to be working in the house in Scribblestown Park in Finglas, Dublin, on the morning of December 12, 2006, when gunmen arrived to kill the notorious Martin 'Marlo' Hyland.
Mr Campbell and his boss, plumber David Murphy, had been due to carry out a quick repair job on the house owned by Hyland's niece, Elaine, the previous night. However, they were too tired after a busy day's work and moved the job to the following morning.
Mr Campbell and Hyland were alone in the house at the time of the shooting and it is believed the young plumber opened the door to his killers.
Hyland (39) was shot six times as he lay sleeping in an upstairs bedroom, before the gunmen turned their attention to Mr Campbell downstairs in the living room. Nobody has been charged with the murders.
Speaking after the inquest, Detective Inspector Kieran McEneaney from Finglas garda station described Mr Campbell's murder as "ruthless".
"Once he (Hyland) was taken out, Anthony Campbell, an innocent young man in the early stages of his plumbing apprenticeship, was shot dead in cold blood to eliminate any possibility of identifying the gunmen at a later date."
Hyland knew his life was in danger and had been staying with his niece, her partner and their two young daughters, for three months before his death.
The inquest heard he had become "very paranoid" and refused to open the front door to anyone. He also kept a Samurai sword close by.
"Martin wasn't in great form. He was very depressed for six weeks before he was shot . . . I think he knew it was coming because he was telling me to get my act together . . . because he wouldn't be around forever," said his brother William Hyland.
Elaine Hyland said she called her uncle her "brother" as they grew up in the same house together following the death of her mother. She said he asked to stay with her after he had a falling out with his girlfriend.
Ms Hyland's partner, Jason Macken, admitted to feeling worried that the gangland figure was staying with his family, "but I never thought anything like this would happen".
On the morning of the murders, Ms Hyland brought her uncle painkiller tablets and a can of 7Up in bed, told him the two plumbers were working downstairs and then left to bring her eldest daughter to school at around 9am.
A short time later Mr Murphy left the house to go to a nearby heat merchants to buy supplies and Mr Campbell continued working on his own. When Mr Murphy returned at 9.30am he couldn't get in despite ringing the doorbell and calling Mr Campbell on his mobile.
Minutes later Ms Hyland arrived home and opened the door whereupon they discovered Mr Campbell's dead body in the living room.
Simon Jones, described as Hyland's driver, also arrived on the scene, ran upstairs and found the second dead body.
Mr Jones did not attend yesterday's hearing and was said to be "out of the jurisdiction". However, his statement to gardai was read to the court and in it he said Hyland knew his life was in danger.
"I've no idea as to why or who shot Martin," he added.
A jury recorded a verdict of unlawful killing in relation to both deaths.