Belfast Telegraph

Gunman shoots himself in leg before bungled hit on cyclist

By Tom Brady and Allison Bray

A bungling hitman in Dublin shot himself in the thigh as he tried to pull a gun out of his tracksuit bottoms before blasting his victim in the stomach.

Both men were recovering from their injuries in hospital last night as gardai examined motives for the attempted murder. The gunman had been lying in wait at around 8.15am in a laneway between Glasnevin Avenue and Glasnevin Park for his intended target, 52-year-old Charlie O'Neill, who was cycling along Glasnevin Avenue.

When the hitman spotted O'Neill, who was known locally as "the Walrus", he dashed out of the laneway but fired a shot while attempting to pull out the shotgun from his pants.

Despite his thigh injury, he ran on to the roadway and fired a blast at O'Neill, who fell from the bicycle to the ground, clutching his stomach.

The gunman then hobbled back down the laneway and into nearby Hillcrest Park where he eventually collapsed on the driveway of a house.

The emergency services were alerted by a local and O'Neill was taken to the Mater Hospital in a serious condition. He was recovering there last night from his injuries, which were described as not life threatening.

Gardai were quickly on the scene and recovered the weapon used in the shootings. They also took possession of the victim's bicycle and another bicycle which they believe the gunman intended to use in his getaway.

Officers also took custody of a third bicycle and last night were trying to trace the identity of its owner. They said it was not yet clear whether the hitman had an accomplice.

The suspect, who is in his 30s and from Finglas, was taken to Beaumont Hospital for treatment for his leg injuries and an armed guard was put on his bedside. Gardai said he was known to them but was not regarded as a major criminal.

A motive for the shooting was being investigated last night but gardai said they believed O'Neill had fallen foul of a criminal gang.

O'Neill is well known to gardai and has several criminal convictions for offences ranging from threatening to kill to drugs, criminal damage, reckless endangerment and dangerous driving.

As forensic officers completed their examination of the scene, gardai carried out door-to-door inquiries in the area.

They appealed to anybody who had spotted a man acting suspiciously on Glasnevin Avenue or in Hillcrest Park yesterday morning between 8am and 8.30am to contact the investigation headquarters at Ballymun station on 01 6664400 or on the confidential line, 1800 666111.

Local residents said O'Neill, who was originally from Ballymun but had been living in Finglas, was a regular fixture in the neighbourhood and was seen cycling up and down Glasnevin Avenue every day.

"I'm here over 40 years and we've never had anything like this happen before," said Hillcrest Park resident Kay Nevin, (71), who saw the alleged gunman leaning against a pillar near her driveway before he collapsed on the road.

Ms Nevin said she saw the 31-year-old man "lying with his hand up like he was looking for help" and saw blood seeping from a wound on his upper right leg. "His leg was very badly damaged," she told the Irish Independent, adding he was moaning in pain. She said a neighbour rushed out with a towel to help stem the bleeding after phoning the gardai.

"It's the first time I've heard of this and we've been here for 43 years," said Hillcrest Park resident Beatrice Thompson, (63). "It's lucky all the children weren't back in school because there would be a lot of children walking past," she said.

The Sacred Heart National School is located within a 10-minute walk of the scene of the shooting as is St Aidan's CBS.

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