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Sunday 22 October 2017

'I screamd and phoned 999', says partner of dad shot dead on school run

The body of Benny Whitehouse lying in the street on September 25, 2014;
The body of Benny Whitehouse lying in the street on September 25, 2014;

A Dublin father carried his daughter's school bag as he walked her into her classroom minutes before he was shot dead, an inquest heard.

Benny Whitehouse (35), of Balbriggan, Co Dublin, walked his two daughters into their respective schools with his partner Natasha White on September 25, 2014.

"Benny went into class with our daughter. He carried her school bag for her," Ms White said.

"We didn't stop and talk to anyone. We were flirting and playing. Benny was in good form."

Dublin Coroner's Court heard that the couple got back into their car and were putting on their seat belts when a gunman approached and opened fire.

"I heard a loud bang and the driver's window smashed," Ms White said.

"I saw Benny turn to the window and put his hands up to protect himself. Then I heard three or four loud bangs. I jumped out of the car."

Blood

She saw the gunman over the top of the car and said he was tall with a black hat "like something a hunter would wear".

Ms White told of her fear and panic, and of suddenly realising they had been shot.

"I noticed there was blood on my boots and my leg. I realised someone had shot Benny," she said.

"I screamed and rang 999 and then someone told me to sit down and put pressure on my leg.

"It all happened so fast. Benny got out of the passenger seat and the man walked up the road.

"He wasn't going fast or anything, and then he got into a Ford Focus and the car pulled away. It just drove normally.

"I could see the wounds on Benny's stomach and back but there was no blood coming from them," she added.

"Someone said his pulse was weak. I could see them cover him with a blanket, but not his face, so I thought there was hope.

"Then the gardai and ambulance arrived. I could hear someone say 'will we pronounce?'"

Witness Michael Brophy watched the shooting unfold as he drove down Clonard Street, Balbriggan, at around 9.20am.

"I saw a man hunkered down, carrying a handgun in his right hand. I couldn't see his face," he said.

"There were two people sitting in a VW Polo car putting their belts on.

"As he reached the VW the man raised the gun.

"He shot through the window of the car about four or five times. I saw the driver flinch and turn away from the person with the gun."

Witnesses heard screeching tyres as the Mayo-registered Ford Focus sped off. It was later found burnt out.

Garda Gerard Moroney, of Balbriggan Garda Station, said he attended the scene along with members of Balbriggan Fire Brigade after receiving an emergency call at 9.20am.

Attempts to resuscitate Mr Whitehouse failed and he was pronounced dead at 10.41am.

The cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds, according to a post-mortem conducted by Dr Michael Curtis.

A file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who directed no prosecution owing to a lack of evidence.

Det Sgt Dave Kemp said the case remained open but gardai "have exhausted all current lines of inquiry".

The jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing by person or persons unknown.

Speaking to the Herald after the murder, Mr Whitehouse's family said the dad-of-two had been under siege from a Traveller family because he refused to sell drugs for them.

Suspects

They said a campaign of intimidation by a group within the Traveller community, which started a year before his murder, was behind the fatal attack.

The gang believed to have killed Mr Whitehouse are also the chief suspects in the suspected murders of Tallaght man Willie Maughan (34) and his partner Anna Varslavane (21).

The young couple were last seen in the Gormanston area of Co Meath on April 14 last year.

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