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Man sentenced to life for murder of father of three ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’ at Bray boxing club

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Father of three Bobby Messett, who was gunned down as he attended an early morning gym class, was the “innocent victim of a brutal crime” and his family have been left with “so many unanswered questions”, the Central Criminal Court heard on Friday.

Mr Messett’s children Demi and Gary spoke at a sentencing hearing on Friday afternoon at which Mr Messett’s murderer Gerard Cervi was sentenced to the mandatory term of life imprisonment.

Demi said the family finds it hard to accept that her father was “in the wrong place at the wrong time” and asked: “Why would such an evil act be carried out in a place where people went to simply keep fit?”

She added: “We as a family are satisfied that my dad’s murderer has been found guilty, yet… we have so many unanswered questions as to why this horrific event happened in the first place. He was the innocent victim of a brutal crime. My dad was a normal working man, he was a painter and decorator, always busy, he had so much life to live.”

No motive was ever advanced for why Cervi entered Bray Boxing Club at about 6.30am and opened fire nine times into the crowded room. Mr Messett was closest to Cervi and died instantly from a single bullet to the head.

Well-known boxing coach Pete Taylor was instructing the class and was injured by the gunman while Ian Britton also suffered injuries. Cervi was charged with attempting to murder Mr Taylor and Mr Brittion but a jury acquitted him of those charges.

However, they agreed unanimously that Cervi was the gunman and found him guilty of murdering Robert ‘Bobby’ Messett.

Following Friday’s hearing, Mr Justice Karen O’Connor sentenced Cervi to life imprisonment. She said: “From the victim impact statements it is clear that the circumstances of his death have had a profound impact on his loved ones and will continue to do so. They will grieve Mr Messett for the rest of their lives.”

During the trial, Det Supt Brian O’Keeffe told Paul Murray SC, for the prosecution, that while no definitive motive for the shooting has been advanced, there is “absolutely no evidence or suggestion that Mr Messett was in any way shape or form the target”.

Cervi (36), from the East Wall area in Dublin 3, had pleaded not guilty to murdering Robert ‘Bobby’ Messett (50) at Bray Boxing Club, Bray Harbour, Co Wicklow on June 5th, 2018.

Demi choked back tears as she told the court that she and her family wanted to talk about her dad, “the amazing man he was and how much we miss him”.

“He was what I believe a dad should be, he was fun, energetic, hardworking, supportive and always pushed us to do our best.” She added: “He was just 50 years old when he was taken from us so brutally, with no chance to say goodbye or to give one last hug.”

Gary said wat is the ordinary, everyday things in life that make him miss his father most. “Moments like when I take photos of my own daughters and realise I can’t send them to my dad. I think of him when I drive through Bray and remember cycling with him and the friendly competitiveness that we had.”

He added: “It infuriates me having to watch that man who took away my dad sit there with no remorse throughout the trial and being able to have his own dad by his side. Something I will no longer get. There is never ever going to be closure for us all, however we live our lives the way my dad would have wanted us to. I hope my dad is now at rest knowing that his family has stayed strong throughout the worst few years of our lives.”

Speaking outside court, Gary said his father was “full of life and energy” and had much more to give in life. “For him to go to his usual fitness class and not return is something we can never come to terms with.”

Cervi, who has been in custody for over five years since his arrest in September 2018, was convicted last week after two trials lasting a combined 17 weeks over a two-year period.

The jury of six men and six women took seven hours and 59 minutes over three days to unanimously accept the prosecution’s case that Cervi, who has no previous convictions, was the gunman who fired nine shots into the crowded gym, killing Mr Messett.

The trial heard that a group of people had assembled at the boxing club in the early hours for a training session when a gunman appeared at the door and opened fire.

At Cervi’s second trial, Mr Taylor explained how he made a run toward the gunman but failed to see a bench that caught his leg. “When I was diving over it, the bench caught my leg and then I got shot and that spun me around,” said Mr Taylor.

Prosecuting counsel Mr Murray said the effect on Mr Taylor’s body angle “when he tripped or fell” appeared to have saved him from more serious injury “if not death”.

Cervi’s first trial, which opened on June 29th, 2021 was originally due to finish that August but two jurors asked to be discharged when the finish date was extended to September. On August 24th, the remaining ten jurors further agreed to sit on until October 22nd. However, on September 6th that year the trial collapsed after another of the remaining jurors fell seriously ill.

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