A verdict of unlawful killing has been returned at the inquest into the death of a man who was shot in the head as he sat in his van on a busy shopping street in Sligo town 11 years ago.
Hughie McGinley (26), from the Connaughton Road Traveller site in Sligo was shot dead in front of his girlfriend, Jacqueline McGuinness, and baby son by a pillion passenger on a motorbike who put a small silver handgun to his left temple and shot him once, Coroner Eamon MacGowan heard at Sligo Coroner’s Court.The single gunshot wound to the head was an unsurvivable injury, according to the State Pathologist, Professor Marie Cassidy.
Shortly after 3pm on 28 April 2005, Hughie McGinley parked his white Toyota Hiace van outside a clothes shop on Grattan Street. A witness told gardaí the deceased had pulled up to admire a pitbull terrier before he was shot through the open window of his van.
The inquest heard that he had pulled in to ask a man if his American pitbull dog was for sale, when another man wearing a dark coloured motorcycle helmet approached the van.He shot Mr McGinley once in the head, through the drivers door at close range.
The witness, Trevor Donnellan, a native of Ennis who had the dog on a lead, said he saw a motorbike driver steering with this left hand while texting on his phone.
Mr Donnellan, who has since emigrated to Australia, told gardaí that the victim had pulled in to admire the dog and had been asking him whether it was for sale just before he was shot.
“He had his head resting on the door with his left hand out to pat the dog,” Mr Donnellan recalled.
He said he had noticed a fellow with a motorbike helmet on, with the black visor down. “He stood and looked at the driver and then looked at me... With that he pulled a handgun like a cowboy gun. It was silver in colour. He put the gun to the left temple of the driver and there was a terrible bang.”Mr Donnellan said the driver was glued to his seat in an upright position. “He had a hole to the head - there was very little blood.”
Witnesses said the young woman in the passenger seat was screaming and shouting and there were lots of onlookers shouting and roaring.Critical Condition
Two of Mr McGinley's brothers arrived at the scene and got into the victim's van and drove him to Sligo General Hospital, (now Sligo University Hospital)
where he was admitted in a critical condition and died some six hours later that evening.
Hughie McGinley was living at the unapproved halting site on Connaghton Road. Photo: SligoToday.ie
Insp Daniel Sweeney told the court that while 550 witness statements had been taken in the course of a lengthy investigation, nobody had been charged with the murder.
Three suspects were arrested in 2005, he said, but exercised their right to remain silent and nothing of evidential value was gleaned from the interviews.
He added that the likelihood of further new evidence was 'improbable' but the investigation remains open.Family not present
None of Mr McGinley's family were present at the inquest.
Sgt Philip Maree said they had been informed in advance of the inquest and gardaí had also called to them when they had not appeared at the courthouse but he said they chose not to come.
He said that Mr McGinley’s family are still very tender and did not want to be at the courthouse.'Historic'
The Coroner said everyone living in Sligo remembered the killing, which was “historic” in Sligo, even though it might not be in terms of Dublin or Ireland as a whole.
“It was a terrible thing that a man was shot in front of his girlfriend, the mother of his child,” he added.The jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing after hearing evidence from State Pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy, who carried out a postmortem.
She said X-rays at the hospital showed a bullet was lodged in the brain. The only significant injury sustained was a gunshot wound to the left side of the head, she said.
The inquest heard the motorbike used in the attack had been stolen in Lucan earlier that day and was later found burnt out in a quarry at Carramore, near Sligo.