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Man thought he was 'going to die' during alleged robbery at Dublin bookies, trial told

Trevor Byrne (41) was charged with five offences in 2011 arising out of an armed robbery at BoyleSports in Swords the previous year

Trevor Byrne

Paul Neilan

A betting shop manager thought he was "going to die" when a gun was pointed at his head during an armed robbery at the bookies over ten years ago, the Special Criminal Court trial of Dubliner Trevor Byrne has been told.

Mr Byrne (41) of Cappagh Road, Finglas West, came before the court today, after the High Court made an order in September of last year transferring his trial from the Circuit Criminal Court to the three-judge Special Criminal Court.

Mr Byrne was charged with five offences in 2011 arising out of an armed robbery at BoyleSports in Swords the previous year, during Cheltenham Race Week on Gold Cup day.

Trevor Byrne

He is accused of robbing a man, a Mr James Robertson, of €1,490 at BoyleSports, Applewood Village, on March 19, 2010, and of possession of a firearm with intent to commit robbery on the same occasion.

He is also charged with seizing a vehicle by threat of force and falsely imprisoning a woman, a Ms Helen Leigh, at nearby Thornleigh Avenue, to the rear of the bookies, on the same day.

Mr Byrne is further charged with threatening to kill her at an unknown location between Thornleigh Avenue and Kilshane Cross in Co Dublin, that day. The accused has denied all of the charges.

Mr Robertson told Mr Shane Costelloe SC, prosecuting, that he was the manager at BoyleSports on the day of the robbery and that one of two armed and masked raiders pointed a gun at his head.

Mr Robertson said that the pair ran from the toilets back into the shop repeatedly shouting "nobody move" and "where is it?"

"Everyone was stunned. I didn't believe it was happening - it was surreal," Mr Robertson told Mr Costelloe.

Mr Robertson said that he thought the two men were looking for a safe but told the men that he had banked all but what was left in the cashiers' tills.

The witness said that the two men then appeared to be panicking.

Scottish native Mr Robertson said: "One of them was behind me and I thought he was going to hit me with the gun. They began to panic and started shouting. One of them put a gun to my head and called me a 'Scottish f***er'. I thought I was going to die - he pointed the gun at my head."

Mr Costelloe asked if Mr Robertson handed over the money and was told: "When there's a gun to your head and you think you're going to die, you'd give them anything. I thought that was it and they were going to shoot me."

Ms Emma O'Reilly, deputy manager, said that both men had "heavy" Dublin accents and that one of the men also pointed a gun at her head.

"I was petrified, I was in fear for my life and I didn't know which way it was going to go," she said.

When Ms O'Reilly brought keys to open up the back-door shutter, she recalled the two men "going a little bit crazy and shouting at each other that they had to go".

Though CCTV showed the incident to be three-and-a-half minutes, Ms O'Reilly said the ordeal "felt like a lifetime".

Mr David Coleman, a cashier, who also had a gun pointed at his head, said that the two men got "more agitated as it went on because they didn't get the money they thought was there".

Mr Coleman said that the raiders then began demanding car keys from the staff and then customers but nobody handed any over before the two fled out the back door towards Thornleigh Avenue.

In his opening speech, Mr Costelloe said that it is the State's case that Mr Byrne and another male went into the bathroom of BoyleSports at around 5.40pm the day and stayed there for approximately 35 minutes.

Mr Costelloe said that the pair then emerged from the bathroom brandishing firearms, "causing everyone to take cover".

The barrister said that there was then "an interaction" with Mr Robertson and the two men, which ended in €1,490 being handed over.

Mr Costelloe said that a dropped mobile phone was found at the bookies' with 15 missed calls on it.

He said that the pair then attempted to leave by the front door but found it closed and left the building by the rear, leading them onto Thornleigh Avenue, where they jumped in front of Ms Leigh's car with "what appeared to be firearms" and got in, taking her with them.

Mr Costelloe said that "at least" one of the males threatened to kill Ms Leigh before they left her on the road and made off.

CCTV of the robbery was played to the court and showed two armed men in balaclavas emerging from the men's bathroom and threatening staff and customers with handguns.

The two males are seen with a sports bag and jumping the counter to the cashier area while ordering staff and customers about at gunpoint.

Mr Byrne is represented by Mr John D Fitzgerald SC and the trial continues at the non-jury court before Mr Justice Michael MacGrath, Ms Justice Sinéad Ní Chúlacháin and Ms Justice Marie Keane.

The trial is expected to last up to two weeks.

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