Spanish cops hunt for gunman wanted in Dubliner's death
Published 29/07/2010 | 00:01
An Englishman was being hunted by police last night after an Irish tourist was shot dead in front of his partner at a Spanish holiday resort.
Dubliner John O'Neill (41), from Bunratty Drive in Coolock had flown to Spain with his family to attend a wedding.
The father of two was shot in the back after he left Coco's bar in the Arroyo de la Miel area of Benalmadena around 3am yesterday.
Last night, police were searching for a suspect from Liverpool in connection with the murder.
Gardai described Mr O'Neill as a hard-working plasterer, who had never been in any trouble and was well-liked by his neighbours in north Dublin.
His parents said, through a family friend, that he was an innocent man with no criminal record. Their son had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Mr O'Neill and his family had organised their holiday to coincide with the wedding of a friend from Coolock.
The couple were drinking with friends in Coco's when a row erupted.
The man suspected of carrying out the shooting was ordered out of the bar by staff.
Eyewitnesses said a barman told the suspect: "There's 30 of them and one of you, so do yourself a favour and go home."
He left the premises but returned shortly afterwards with a gun.
Mr O'Neill had left the premises and was standing at a bus stop 50 yards away when the gunman opened fire, hitting Mr O'Neill in the back.
He collapsed on the street in a pool of blood as his horrified partner screamed for help.
Locals said they heard up to three shots and armed police and an ambulance raced to the scene, which is near Malaga on the Costa del Sol. But paramedics could do nothing to save his life and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
His girlfriend gave a statement to police including a description of the suspect, who fled immediately after the shooting.
Last night, the woman and their two children, aged 3 years and 9 months, were being comforted by friends.
The murder is being investigated by officers from the specialist violent crime unit of the national police in nearby Torremolinos.
One local said Mr O'Neill had been shot in the back and the gunman then fired more shots at the pub before making his getaway.
Eyewitness Luis Solero said : "I saw a man running off with blood stains on his shirt.
"He jumped over a fence and ran in the direction of the marina. He was still carrying the pistol in his hands." Coco's is a large bar, popular with tourists and expats, and has a terrace offering spectacular views over the Mediterranean. It has seating for 188 people, two pool tables and 10 plasma screen TVs.
Locals in Coolock yesterday described Mr O'Neill as "the best neighbour anyone could have wanted".
The 40-year-old, known to his friends as 'Jock', lived with his partner and two children around the corner from the family home where he was raised on Bunratty Drive in the north Dublin town.
"He was everyone's best mate. He was just a really nice guy," a friend of Mr O'Neill said.
Last night the O'Neill family, including his brother David and sister Sharon, gathered at the family home to come to terms with their loss.