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Westport man’s killers unlikely to ever be found

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Westport man Robert Gray was just 45 when he was murdered while working in Nigeria.
TRAGIC ENDING
?Westport man Robert Gray was just 45 when he was murdered while working in Nigeria.

Inquest hears Westport man’s killers unlikely to ever be found


Edwin McGreal

The killers of Westport man Robert Gray are unlikely to ever be found, an inquest into his death has heard.
Mr Gray was shot and killed in an armed robbery in the Nigerian state of Taraba on August 23, 2012. He was working in the country as a project manager for construction company PW Nigeria and his driver, Armaya’u Ababakar, was seriously injured in the attack.
Another PW Nigeria employee, Jim McKenna, was quickly on the scene. He rushed Mr Gray to hospital but believes that Robert Gray died in his arms en route to hospital.
The unusual inquest took place in Castlebar on Friday last due to the fact that no inquest has taken place in Nigeria. It heard the cause of death was a gunshot to Mr Gray’s hip, the bullet from which exited from the front his body.
A statement from Armaya’u Ababakar was read to the inquest. He said he and Mr Gray were ‘accosted’ by armed robbers at a bend in the road. Mr Ababakar was hit by bullets in his arm, neck, knee and head.
“As the vehicle veered towards the elbow of the road, the late Robert Gray, who, meanwhile, had leaned over and taken control of the steering suddenly screamed. I later realised he was fatally hit by a bullet,” he said.
He said both he and Robert Gray ‘continued to writhe in pain’ when two armed men pointed guns at them and took mobile phones, money and Mr Gray’s laptop.
An initial police report said there was ‘sufficient evidence’ linking two men, Baba Joel and John Usman, with the murder and armed robbery, and they were charged before a court. A police report stated Joel was seen making a phone call near a bank in the town of Takum, close to the border with Cameroon, when Mr Gray emerged from a bank there.
Joel was also seen at a filling station with John Usman. They left at speed on a motorcycle without paying, heading in the general direction of where the armed robbery took place.
However, the Director of Public Prosecutions in Nigeria told the State Police in Taraba that the case ‘needs to be reinvestigated, as the investigation carried out by the police is too scanty to be given legal advice’.
Another police report said an identification parade that included Joel and Usman saw Armaya’u Ababakar unable to identify either suspect.
Coroner for Mayo West John O’Dwyer said he had spoken with Aoife Ní Fhearghail, Deputy Head of Mission at the Irish Embassy in the Nigerian capital of Abuka, on Thursday last and that ‘her view is that she does not see any possible conclusion to this’ and that ‘any future investigation is unlikely, seeing as the driver could not identify the two suspects’.
Mr O’Dwyer criticised the police report submitted to the inquest and expressed his sympathy to Robert Gray’s wife Jeanette, his two daughters, his mother and his sisters.
Liam Guider, solicitor for the Gray family, thanked Mr O’Dwyer for his ‘diligence and sensitivity’, adding: “It is unfortunate that the country in which Robert met his end could not investigate his killing in an appropriate and dignified manner.”

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