THE Irishman gunned down in a suspected assassination plot in South America was unarmed and in his underwear when he was shot dead after being woken in a dawn raid.
Mike Dwyer had openly made a number of trips to Bolivia already this year and doubts are being cast over whether he was in any way involved in an assassination plot against the country's president, Evo Morales.
Weapons put on display by authorities in La Paz were of first World War vintage and one of the bodies, all three of which were photographed by local media, had its hands bound.
Dwyer, a 24-year-old student, had posted photographs and updates from his travels in South America. He even told about how he was driving a BMW and had got a new tattoo, which would ultimately be used to identify him.
Friends said yesterday it was inconceivable that Dwyer had been involved in any sort of a plot and said he had gone to South America to work in private security.
One close friend said: "If they were actually plotting attacks, do you think he would post up holidays pictures of himself on his Bebo site and joke about driving a BMW.
"Mike was very interested in the military but he had no formal training and the idea that he was some kind of international hitman for hire is just a joke."
His family issued a statement yesterday, saying they are "shocked and devastated by the tragic death of a beloved son and brother", and asked for privacy.
Michael was born in June 1984, the son of Martin and Caroline Dwyer of Ballinderry, Co Tipperary. Martin is an electrician, Caroline a pharmaceutical engineer. They also have two daughters, Aisling (25) and Ciara (21) and a son, Emmett (14). Michael was a graduate of construction management from Galway Mayo Institute of Technology.
Dwyer was described by Bolivian authorities as a "soldier of fortune", who had been part of the Croatian Liberation Movement, an extreme right-wing paramilitary group.
Bizarrely, one Bolivian newspaper said he had fought in Yugoslavia in the immediate aftermath of the Balkans conflict, even though he would have been just a teenager.
They said he had been enlisted by Eduardo Rozsa Flores and Mayarosi Ariod, eastern European mercenaries who had fought during the war in the Balkans in the early 1990s. Two other men, Croatian nationals Elot Toazo and Mario Todac, were also in police custody.
The Bolivian authorities also originally alleged that they had pursued the men from their weapons hideout to the fourth floor of a hotel where they met their grim end. However, reports yesterday suggested that the men had in fact been woken in their room by a stun grenade and then shot at close range.
An Irish military source said: "Mike Dwyer had a massive wound in the chest, which means he was either shot in the back or at extremely close range.
"There was no evidence of explosives having been used and the bang heard in the hotel was probably a flash grenade. There is nothing to suggest there was any type of shootout."
The dramatic raid began at 3.30am on Thursday morning on the fourth floor of the Hotel Las Americas in the Bolivian capital, La Paz. Guests and staff at the hotel reported hearing an explosion before hearing the sound of gunfire.
According to national police commander Victor Hugo Escobar, the alleged mercenaries opened fire on troops and were then killed in the ensuing gun battle.
Footage of the aftermath seen by the Sunday Tribune shows the men lying dead on the ground in their underwear as if they had just been woken up.
There are no signs of any other weapons or indications of a half-hour fire-fight inside the hotel, and one of the men had his hands bound behind his back. The bodies remained in the hotel for more than 15 hours after the shootings, and were then taken to the morgue of San Juan de Dios hospital.
Victor Hugo Escobar, the police chief said: "They made use of firearms and we were forced to respond." He said that the men had already been involved in terrorist exercises and were in possession of explosive materials, high-calibre weapons and ammunition.
People who knew Mike Dwyer described him yesterday as an "ordinary guy", who had a strong interest in weaponry and militaria. He was actively involved in playing a tactical warfare game called Airsoft, which is similar to paintballing.
Dwyer had no actual military training and had never served in the Irish Defence Forces or with the Reserve Defence Forces.
There were also reports he may have spent a few months in the British army but those were dismissed by associates yesterday who said he had most recently been working as a bouncer in Galway.
His Bebo site, which had been deactivated yesterday, featured quizzes that he had taken stating what type of assassin he most resembled. He answered that he was most like Bruce Willis in the film The Jackal. The 24-year-old said he was "happiest when cruising in my new BMW in South America" before adding that the insects there were "as big as freakin' cats".
Dwyer also said his favourite weapon would be a 9mm silenced pistol and said his favoured military position would be as a sniper.
He described himself as "travelin, workin, doin a bit a dis and a bit a dat" and lists his sports as "kickboxing, kravmaga [unarmed combat technique], pistol shootin".
He had also posted pictures of himself in a variety of camouflage gear and carrying a range of Airsoft weapons. The last comment on the site came from one of his friends, merely saying: "RIP bro."
The Department of Foreign Affairs said it had still not received final confirmation that Mike Dwyer was one of the three men killed by police in Bolivia.
Interpol has offered to help authorities with the investigation, while Bolivian opposition senate chief Oscar Ortiz said investigators should "aim to find the truth, instead of helping the president stage an international show".
Officials said the three men were also involved in a plot to kill the governor of the Santa Cruz region, who is a fierce critic of President Evo Morales.
They said the men were also suspected of attempting to blow up a navy boat on which Morales met with cabinet ministers two weeks ago.