He had denied the murder, which occurred in April 2016.
A GLOBETROTTING CAR thief has been convicted by the non-jury Special Criminal Court of murdering the manager of the Sunset House pub in Dublin over four years ago.
Liverpool native David Hunter (41), with an address at Du Cane Road, White City, London, had denied the murder of 35-year-old dissident republican Michael Barr at the Sunset House pub in Dublin’s north inner city on the night of 25 April 2016.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Alexander Owens said today that the evidence had been heard in a “compelling way” that Hunter was one of the two gunmen who entered the Summerhill pub and murdered Barr by shooting him. Hunter’s involvement in the murder had been “fully proved” and the three-judge court was “sure of his guilt”, he remarked.
The judge noted that the major part of a DNA profile taken from a ski-mask recovered during the investigation into the shooting of Barr matched and verified the profile of Hunter. The circumstantial evidence in the case “pointed inextricably” to Hunter’s guilt and the facts taken together had established the father-of-five’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and no other rational explanation could be drawn, indicated the judge.
Mr Justice Owens said the court rejected Hunter’s explanation for his whereabouts on the night and found it “implausible” with part of it being contradicted by other evidence. He also said the whole story of how Hunter came to lose his ski-mask “did not have a ring of truth about it” and there was no doubt that it was put into the car to either use at the murder or in the getaway car.
In a voluntary statement to gardaí, Hunter said that the ski-mask was his but that he had dropped it in a car driven by another man when he visited Ireland two months before the murder on a car-stealing exercise.
Hunter claimed he had used the mask on various ski trips with his children to Norway, France, Spain, Scotland, Austria and Switzerland. A number of holiday photos of Mr Hunter in a ski mask were handed into court during the trial.
“The DNA material attributed to Hunter and the matching DNA profile itself established a strong probability that Hunter was one of the murderers in the car,” said the judge, adding that it was not a “credible explanation” that the ski-mask had been left behind by him on a previous trip to Dublin.
Second to be found guilty
Hunter is the second man to be found guilty of murdering Michael Barr. In January 2018, Eamonn Cumberton (32), of Mountjoy Street, Dublin 7, was also convicted of murdering the Tyrone native.
Barr was shot seven times after two armed men wearing boiler suits and full rubber masks over their faces entered the Sunset House pub at around 9pm. He had been shot fives times in the head, once in the leg and once in the shoulder. Then-Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis found that the cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds.
During the five-week trial which ended in July, evidence was given that at around 9.20pm at Walsh Road in Drumcondra, a silver Audi A6 was seen to arrive and that three occupants got out and set the car alight.
The three men then got into a “possibly silver” Ford Mondeo and left the scene but gardaí already in the area arrived at 9.42pm and extinguished the fire. The burning Audi A6 vehicle was examined and cocked and loaded weapons, ready for use, were discovered.
Boiler suits, two ski masks and two rubber masks were also found in the rear seat. A phone, which had a number of missed calls, was found next to a bullet on the grass nearby.
During the trial, Dr Edward Connolly of Forensic Science Ireland testified that mixed DNA profiles had been found on two masks – one rubber and one ski – taken from the Audi by gardaí.
The expert witness said that he found a mixed DNA profile on a ski-mask with four elements; one major, two minor and one trace. The “major contributor” of the ski-mask’s DNA profile formed 61% of the mixed profile, he said.
DNA samples from an apple core and a cigarette butt discarded by Hunter in the course of his extradition from the UK and his processing in Ireland on October 16, 2019, were also cross-referenced by Dr Connolly. The witness testified that the odds on the profile created by the cigarette butt and the apple core being of “an individual unrelated to the DNA on the ski-mask were “a thousand-million to one”.
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Closing the prosecution case in July, prosecuting counsel Dominic McGinn SC with Ronan Kennedy SC said Hunter would have to be an “extremely unlucky” man if he was not involved in the killing. He argued that “there could be no reasonable doubt” of Hunter’s involvement unless the court was to believe that he had been “extremely unlucky with all of these coincidences” that had been offered in his defence.
McGinn said that DNA evidence on a ski-mask, which had a mixed profile with one 61% contributor, matched the DNA profile taken from a cigarette butt and ear-plugs used and discarded by Hunter when in custody.
Furthermore, McGinn said that ballistics could match the guns used in the murder to those found in an Audi A6 on the Walsh Road in Drumcondra, Dublin 9, shortly after the shooting.
‘No James Bond’
Defence counsel Roisin Lacey SC said in her closing address that her client was “no James Bond, or Ethan Hunt” and was instead a “two-bit car thief”.
Lacey pointed out that Hunter, who claimed he came to Ireland to see a concert and said he was with two women in a Dublin hotel around the time of the shooting, could not “logically” have been the killer.
The barrister stressed that her client was not in the Sunset House, not in the vehicles used on the night and that he did not shoot anyone.
Lacey indicated that the defendant was an habitual wearer of the mask in the past and this could explain the majority of the mixed profile coming from Hunter on the ski-mask which had been in close contact with the rubber mask.
Mr Justice Owens will hand down the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment on November 2 and remanded Hunter in custody until that date. He adjourned sentencing after counsel for the defence, Lacey, asked for time to read the victim impact statements which will be submitted to the court.