Gunmen dressed up in police uniforms opened fire in an Irish hotel lobby, killing one man and seriously injuring two others, during a packed weigh-in for a European boxing title fight.
Up to 300 fans, including women and children, at the sporting event at the Regency Hotel in Dublin scattered in fear of their lives as the attackers apparently targeted their three victims, aged in their 20s and 30s.
Witnesses described scenes of terror and pandemonium, with one of the gunmen dressed up as a woman and reports that AK-47 assault rifles as well as handguns were used in the suspected gangland hit.
Amateur video footage of the weigh-in, ahead of a WBO European lightweight title fight between Jamie Kavanagh and Antonio Jao Bento, has been posted online showing the horror unfold.
One child is heard crying: “Daddy, help me. Daddy, what was that?” As chairs are tossed aside and people dive for cover, one petrified woman is heard saying “What the f*** is going on?”.
Conflicting reports say between three and four gunmen were involved in the attack launched at the normally busy hotel on the Swords Road, around 3 kilometres north of Dublin city centre, at around 2.30pm on Friday afternoon.
It occurred in the hotel lobby next to a function room, where the weigh-in for the Clash of the Clans boxing bout scheduled to take place on Saturday evening, was just finishing up.
The body of the dead man was seen by a number of people slumped against the hotel reception desk “riddled” with bullets.
Two other victims were rushed to The Mater and Beaumont hospitals with what are suspected to be gunshot wounds.
It is believed a number of gangland figures were expected to be attending the weight-in at the Regency Hotel.
Speculation has centred on a feud between Dublin gangsters and an Irish criminal outfit based in the south of Spain.
The gunmen fled the scene in a van, which was later found set alight nearby.
Kevin McAnena, a sports reporter who was covering the weigh-in, said one of two gunmen dressed in Garda-style uniforms pointed a “big, massive” gun at him while he sought cover in the lobby in the heat of the attack.
“I jumped over the reception desk, I think I smashed the vase on my way, then the gunman came over to reception, looked down at me and pointed the gun at me, and I shouted, I was shouting even before he came over ‘don’t shoot, don’t shoot’,” he said.
“[The gunman] said something to me but I don’t know what he even said, I can’t remember at this point, I just know I’ve never felt terror like it, I was really, really scared and then after that it was just silence.”
Mr McAnena said he saw a gunman firing into a victim’s leg.
“The man I saw being shot in the leg, is the man who is now dead – he was no more than six foot from me,” he said.
“The gunshots I heard after I jumped over the receptionist’s desk were probably the gunshots that finished him off.
“That same gunman looked over at me before pointing the gun at me, telling me, I think he said ‘get up’ or ‘go away’ or something like that.”
Mr McAnena said he heard two shots outside the hotel and at least three more inside.
“They were big, massive guns – gardai have told me since they were AK-47 rifles,” he added.
“It was just so surreal, it happened so quickly.
“I remember thinking if he just shot him without looking, then he is going to shoot me.”
Witness Mel Christle, president of the Boxing Union of Ireland, was standing on a podium where the last of the boxers weighing in had just stood down when the gunfire erupted outside the room.
“There was a horrific cracking noise, in front of me, out of the banquet room – it was a place called the Regency Suite,” he said.
“There was an incredible noise out there, and that is where I saw a body, a corpse, lying literally at the edge of the reception desk.
“So I’m sure he (the victim) was trapped – he was riddled.”
Mr Christle said one of the gunmen was dressed up as a woman and aged in his early 20s.
The boxing chief was adamant the attackers were not targeting the boxers gathered for the weigh-in, but other individuals who were hit in the hotel reception.
He said there was panic as people dived for cover when they realised what was happening.