Slain crime boss Eamon 'The Don' Dunne tried to shield himself behind a bar worker before he was shot dead in a Dublin pub.
Two gunmen marched into the pub in Cabra and fired eight bullets into Dunne, Dublin's Coroner's Court was told yesterday.
The Herald can reveal that the murder was carried out by a north inner city gang who have close links with the international crime syndicate headed by Christy Kinahan.
All four men who were involved in Dunne's murder have been arrested but none is likely to face charges.
Dunne (34), of Dunsoughly Drive, Finglas, was shot dead at a party in the Fassaugh House pub in Cabra on April 23, 2010.
He was attending the birthday celebrations of taxi driver John Fairbrother when he was killed. Earlier that day, Dunne had given him a birthday present of an Armani watch and was organising a cake.
Mr Fairbrother told the inquest that he was forced to find a new venue for his 38th birthday party at short notice after the landlord of the Oasis pub got cold feet.
"Two young fellas had mentioned to the owner that the place would be kicking next Friday with my party and he got a bit nervous and cancelled it," he said.
Mr Fairbrother said there were two "baldy fellas" in their company on the night, so "someone must have sent a text or something to say where Eamon was sat".
"The party was only in the planning for a couple of days really, and so to get that right in just one go was strange," he said.
The inquest heard Dunne was sitting in the company of a number of men when the gunmen entered and "pandemonium" broke out as they fired at him.
Karaoke operator Paul Byrne said that when the gunmen, who were dressed completely in black and wearing balaclavas, entered the , one of them shouted: "Down, down, everybody down!"
The inquest heard the statement of lounge boy Geng Tian, who has since returned to China.
He was waiting to be paid for a round of drinks at the table when Dunne grabbed him.
"He pulled me in close to his body," he said. "He moved in close to me as if he was trying to hide himself by covering himself using me.
"I thought he was joking with me. I thought he was playing around. I was surprised.
"He pulled me in close to himself, covering himself for a few seconds. Suddenly I heard a very loud bang behind my head on my right side."
Mr Tian had spent seven years in Dublin and was studying accountancy.
Another witness, Graham Farrell, said he saw one gunman run towards where Dunne was sitting before shooting him in the head.
"I saw Eamon's head splatter on the back top right," he said.
Witnesses described chaos as people first hit the ground when the shooting began and then scattered through the nearest exits.
Gareth Flanagan said it looked like the gunman knew where Dunne was.
"He was walking very deliberately as if he knew exactly where he was going," he said.
"I heard seven bangs. I think after a few seconds the bangs stopped and people started running everywhere.
"I didn't see the gunman run away. The drink on the tables was flying everywhere from the people running."
As he ran towards the ladies' toilets, he saw Dunne's body lying on the floor.
"I didn't know who it was at the time. I saw dark blood around him," he said.
Mr Flanagan said he was in shock afterwards, so he and his girlfriend took a taxi to the Oasis bar.
"We needed a gargle to calm the nerves after what happened," he said.
Graham Farrell said he dived for cover when the gunmen entered.
"There were four shots, a pause and then more followed before it stopped," he said. "I then got up and ran. I knew Eamon was bolloxed. There was total confusion."
Mr Farrell also went to the Oasis pub after the shooting.
"A good few from the Fassaugh House went to the Oasis. I have no idea who was responsible for the shooting."
Det Insp Francis Sweeney said the investigation was extensive and is ongoing.
Some associated matters were the subject of a file sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, but not the murder itself, he said.
"It was definitely a targeted shooting. Dunne was singled out and shot eight times," he said .
There had been several threats to Dunne's life over the years, he added.
Twelve shots were discharged in the attack.
State Pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy found that Dunne was shot eight times, with five bullets causing injuries to the brain and vital organs.
"There were two gunshots to the back of the head which would have been immediately fatal," coroner Dr Brian Farrell said.
The jury heard that CCTV shows two men entering the pub while a third man waits outside. Another person waits in a getaway car.
A toxicology report showed that Dunne had no drugs and only a trace of alcohol in his body.
Dunne was a major crime figure, having assumed control of the Finglas-based drugs and armed robbery operation previously led by Martin 'Marlo' Hyland.
His gang was a major importer of drugs, supplying them to smaller operations throughout the country, and is suspected of being involved in several gangland killings.