The horrific actions of those responsible for the mass murder which unfolded in Greysteel 20 years ago today is outlined in detail in court documents which decided the return to jail of the leading gunman.
At around 10pm on October 30, 1993, two gunmen dressed in balaclavas and blue boiler suits stepped in to the Rising Sun Bar and opened fire on the innocent civilians socialising on a Saturday evening while a third gunman stood armed with a sawn-off shotgun outside the bar’s entrance to cover their escape.
The court documents outline the ‘factual background’ for a decision on the tariff of the ‘main gunman’, Stephen Geoffrey Irwin, on his return to prison
The report outlines how Irwin fired an entire AK47 assault rifle magazine at the patrons before callously reloading and opening fire again, whilst he was being covered by his accomplices Geoffrey Deeney and Torrens Knight.
The documents describe how Irwin boasted about the shooting: “Geoffrey Deeney was the first gunman to enter the lounge bar. He stood to the right of the entrance door and his role was to ‘cover’ the main gunman, Irwin, to ensure that no-one interfered with him.
“Irwin followed Deeney into the building but proceeded further into the bar, more or less on to the dance floor. He said, ‘Trick or treat?’ and then opened fire on the patrons in the bar.
“There was a long period of gunfire followed by a short cessation of shooting while the prisoner changed the magazine on his rifle. He had two magazines before entering the bar and as soon as he had emptied the first of these he replaced it with the second and opened fire again.
“From forensic evidence and from the location of the bullet damaged areas in the bar, it was possible to conclude that Irwin had discharged shots from positions in both the lounge bar and the dance hall. A number of witnesses verified this in their statements, saying that during the second burst of gunfire the main gunman appeared at the entrance to the dance area from where he fired a number of shots around the room. In an interview of one of the prisoner’s co-accused, Brian McNeill, an account was given of Irwin’s own description of the shooting. McNeill told the police that the prisoner laughed about having said, ‘Trick or treat?’ and then described how he had approached an elderly man and asked him, ‘Trick or treat?’.
According to McNeill, the prisoner said that the old man laughed whereupon he shot him, describing the killing as having taken (the man’s head) off’. A number of the other defendants informed police during interviews that the prisoner had laughed and boasted about the shooting.”
The court documents go on to describe how the murderers made their getaway. Meanwhile, the true horror of what they had just done began to emerge: “The scene of carnage in the bar during and after this outrageous attack has been described in various witness statements. Unsurprisingly, while the attack was taking place, there was panic and screaming, people were calling out others’ names and women pleaded for mercy from the gunmen.
“There was total chaos in the lounge. People were crying out for help. The place was covered in glass, water and blood. Those who had escaped injury assisted the wounded until the arrival of the police and ambulances.
“The scene that greeted police when they arrived at the bar was hell-like. A number of bodies lay on the floor, some covered in sheets. Several people were seriously injured and a number of others had sustained less serious bullet wounds, cuts, bruises and lacerations. Many who were physically uninjured were in various states of shock and hysteria. The lounge was in complete disarray – there was overturned furniture, a considerable amount of blood, broken glass and spent bullet cases on the floor. Bullet holes peppered the bar area and the walls.”
A total of seven people were to be pronounced dead that night while another man was to die from his injuries some time later.
Those injured, the families of those killed and indeed the entire community of Greysteel were faced with the task of coming to terms with an act of indescribable horror.