herald

Wednesday 22 May 2019

Victim shot twice in gun attack may have been set up

Gardai examine the scene where Stephen Somers was shot at least twice by an unknown assailant
Gardai examine the scene where Stephen Somers was shot at least twice by an unknown assailant

Gardai believe a criminal, who miraculously escaped serious injury despite being shot twice in the chest, was set up by a person who is well known to him.

Stephen Somers (27) remained in St Vincent's Hospital last night to be treated for "particularly nasty" injuries to his arm following a murder attempt in Bray, Co Wicklow, at 8.45pm on Wednesday.

Amazingly, Somers will not require surgery, even though a would-be hitman fired two shots from an automatic pistol into both sides of his chest.

Both bullets exited the criminal's body in the botched gangland hit and the most serious injuries he suffered are from being shot in the arm.

He was sitting in the passenger seat when the gunman struck and fired at least three shots before leaving the handgun at the scene.

Initially gardai believed he was targeted in a drive-by shooting but last night they were investigating whether the gunman was on foot after they located a dark-coloured VW Golf they originally thought was the vehicle the shots had been fired from.

"The garda helicopter was out, the Golf car was located in the early hours and gardai are satisfied that this vehicle was not involved in the attempted murder," a source said.

"It is unclear whether the gunman was actually on foot but the suspicion now is that he may have been waiting for the target when he arrived at the scene."

St Laurence's Terrace in Bray remained sealed off yesterday as the investigation into the shooting continued.

The street is a quiet cul-de-sac that was previously the scene of the fatal fire that claimed the lives of firemen Brian Murray and Mark O'Shaughnessy in 2007.

A line of gardai filed out across the road, searching for evidence that might help trace the gunmen.

They lifted drain covers and traffic cones, and also used metal detectors, and searched gardens along the road in the detailed fingertip search.

Blood

Somers was in the passenger seat of the car when the gunman fired across a 40-year-old local woman who was in the driver's side of the vehicle.

This woman "possibly saved the victim's life" when she took off her jumper and used it to plug the blood flow.

After emergency services rushed to the scene, the woman travelled to hospital in the ambulance with the victim.

The target, Somers, is well known to gardai and was given a five-year jail sentence at Dublin Circuit Court in March 2014 after he pleaded guilty to the possession of an explosive substance.

That charge related to being caught with a pipe bomb by Tallaght gardai, at Killininny Road, in Firhouse, on May 16, 2012, as part of a special operation codenamed Operation Enchant targeting the pipe bomb epidemic that year.

While serving his sentence for that crime, Somers was also handed a two-and-a-half-year stretch at Wicklow Circuit Court in July 2014 for a violent disorder incident that had happened some years previously.

The circuit court judge ruled that this sentence should run concurrently and the criminal has been a free man for around a year.

Gardai are investigating whether a dangerous local drugs gang had any part in the attack.

Debts

However, they also probing if a person known to Somers was involved in setting him up to be murdered as part of a "sick ploy" to clear estimated wider debts of around €100,000.

"Yes, he might owe a few bob, but this other person owes far more. This was potentially a set-up," a senior source said.

Gardai said last night that there had been no arrests in the case and the gunman had not been identified, but officers were hopeful DNA might be recovered from the firearm which has been seized.

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