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Trial latest Swimmer heard 'explosion' before man 'hurried' out of club and 'revved' up van, Messett murder trial hears

"I thought he was doing building work and had detonated something and was running away"

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Bobby Messett

Bobby Messett

Bobby Messett

A sea swimmer has told the Bray Boxing Club murder trial that she heard "an explosion, like something was being detonated" moments before a man "in a hurry" ran out of the club and "revved" up his van.

Gerard Cervi (34), from the East Wall area of Dublin 3, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Bobby Messett (50) at Pete Taylor's Bray Boxing Club, Bray Harbour, Bray, Co Wicklow during an early morning fitness session on June 5, 2018. Mr Cervi also denies the attempted murder of Mr Taylor and Ian Britton on the same occasion.

This afternoon, Ms Elizabeth Petcu, who lives on Bray seafront, told prosecuting counsel Paul Murray SC that June 5 was a lovely day so she went for a swim with her two dogs in front of her house at 6.30am that morning. "Having completed my swim normally I would go home but the morning was so beautiful I said I'd walk the harbour and look at the birds," she remarked.

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Gerard Cervi (34) has pleaded not guilty to all charges

Gerard Cervi (34) has pleaded not guilty to all charges

Gerard Cervi (34) has pleaded not guilty to all charges

Ms Petcu described hearing a noise that sounded like an explosion and said "it was like something was being detonated in the harbour". The witness said she then saw a man wearing a yellow hard hat "like construction workers wear" and a yellow high-vis vest running out of Bray Boxing club. "I thought he was doing building work and had detonated something and was running away," she added.

The witness said she saw the man jump over a barrier outside the entrance to the club and "land awkwardly". "I heard a car start up and saw him fly by in this little van," she continued.

She said she thought the man was dark-skinned and wearing a little hat. "I knew I had seen something unusual but I didn't get the whole number plate as I was in shock," she said.

Describing the yellow number plate of the "silver or white van", Mr Petcu said it had "something like AZ in it", was quite distinctive and there was a window at the back of the vehicle, which had "surprised" her.

The witness said she could only see the driver in the vehicle, which she described as being like a "small post office or police van".

She told Mr Murray that she was not sure how many "explosions" she had heard that morning.

Referring to the yellow hard hat, Ms Petcu said it looked new and the man's face may have been covered. "The hat was quite low over the eyes and it seemed like the face was in shadow," she recalled.

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Asked about the man's height, the witness said that she got the impression he was not particularly tall but he was stocky and "thick-set".

"This man came straight out [of the club] and jumped over the barrier. He was in a hurry. He looked as if he had landed rather awkwardly, seemed to lose his balance and almost hurt himself," she said.

Ms Petcu said he seemed a "bit out of balance" after he landed on his feet. "It looked like he had a sore leg but he could have just jumped awkwardly," she remarked.

When asked what sound the engine of the van had made, Ms Petcu said it was "revving" and like "someone was in a hurry". The van was moving "as quickly as possible", she continued, and this was when she realised what she had seen.

Ms Petcu said people began to "spill out" of the boxing club and they looked "ashen faced" and shocked. She knew most of these people to see as she would walk there every morning. "I didn't want to stay too long as I felt like a voyeur but I did stay a bit as I couldn't make sense of what I had seen," she indicated.

The witness said that one "terribly upset" girl came out of the gym. "She could barely speak and I asked her if she was ok," she remarked. Before she left she heard "the fitness people" talking amongst themselves.

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Pete Taylor at the Central Criminal Court where he gave evidence in the trial of Gerard Cervi for the murder of Bobby Messett at Bray Boxing Club, in June 2018.. Pic: Collins Courts

Pete Taylor at the Central Criminal Court where he gave evidence in the trial of Gerard Cervi for the murder of Bobby Messett at Bray Boxing Club, in June 2018.. Pic: Collins Courts

Pete Taylor at the Central Criminal Court where he gave evidence in the trial of Gerard Cervi for the murder of Bobby Messett at Bray Boxing Club, in June 2018.. Pic: Collins Courts

Earlier, Anne-Marie Holland told prosecution counsel Dara Hayes BL that she usually goes for a walk with her husband at 6.15am each morning but they had left the house a little bit later on the morning of June 5. Ms Holland said they drove to the beach in separate cars at around 6.30am or 6.35am as her husband was going to work afterwards. "We live close to the seafront so I literally had to take one street down, it is three minutes of a drive," she remarked.

The witness said she would normally drive to the end of the carpark and park facing the sea.

On this particular morning, Ms Holland said the carpark was practically empty and no other cars were parked there except for one which she "had to avoid".

As she drove into the carpark, Ms Holland said the car reversed towards her as if it was going to hit her. "I got kind of scared as it was reversing towards me at speed. It was reversing directly at me, which I thought was odd," she said.

Describing the car, Ms Holland said it was a large car with darkened windows at the back. "It looked like a car van, a silver-coloured grey car. My fear was that I was going to be hit at that hour of the morning," she said.

"It was ominous as it wasn't one I see everyday. It was reversing at such speed that I had to accelerate to park the car," she continued.

She said the other car exited the car park and "literally disappeared" as she parked her car. She thought the registration plates were yellow and the car was "lighter rather than dark".

As she walked to the south end of the beach with her husband, Ms Holland said she could see lots of garda cars on the road and said to her husband that it was "very unusual". As they walked back along the beach, she met a lady who told her that there had been a shooting.

Ms Holland told Mr Murray that it was "unusual" for a car to be reversing at that time of the morning and not see her vehicle.

Under cross-examination, the witness agreed with defence counsel Anne-Marie Lawlor SC that she had told gardai that the other car was dark grey or a silver colour but not a bright silver.

In his opening speech, Mr Murray said a resident in the Cornelscourt area of Cabinteely noticed a silver van in a cul de sac after 7am that morning with a yellow registration plate beginning with DFZ, which the prosecution say was the same van seen leaving the boxing club after the shooting.

The court heard that at 1.30pm, gardaí received a report of a silver Volkswagen Caddy with the same registration number parked along Pigeon House Road parallel to a road leading to the East Link toll bridge.

Mr Murray said there would also be a witness to give evidence of seeing a man on a bicycle at the van at around 8.15am, long before it was reported to gardaí. Counsel told the jury it was the prosecution's case that the man with the bicycle and the man in the van were both Gerard Cervi.

The trial continues on Tuesday in front of Mr Justice Michael White and a jury of three men and nine women.

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