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regency shooting

Jonathan Dowdall claims he was 'set up' for murder of David Byrne

Dowdall has said he didn’t know who was to stay in the room linked to him at the Regency Hotel.

EX-SINN FÉIN COUNCILLOR, Jonathan Dowdall, a former co-accused of Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch who has turned State’s witness, has claimed that he was “set up” for the murder of Kinahan Cartel member David Byrne.

Under cross-examination for a second day by Hutch’s barrister Brendan Grehan SC, Dowdall said he did not know who was to stay in the room at Regency Hotel before the murder but that it had been “tied” to him and his family.

The key witness in the Regency Hotel murder trial who has pleaded guilty to facilitating Byrne’s murder said a “massive amount of pressure” was put on him after he was granted bail and that Gerard Hutch “put demands” on him.

“I was to make myself available to his solicitor 24/7, he told me to contact his son, within a week when I didn’t go to his solicitor, he sent people to my home, sent letters in my door,” he said.

Asked by counsel about his assertion that Gerard Hutch came “looming out of the shadows” on Richmond Road on the eve of the Regency attack to collect key cards for a room at the hotel, Dowdall replied: “The Hutchs were willing to throw someone else under the bus; your client was willing to throw his own brother under the bus”.

Gerard Hutch (59), last of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin 3, who denies the murder of  Byrne (33) during a boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel on 5 February 2016.

Grehan, representing Hutch, opened his cross-examination on yesterday by telling Dowdall that the defence contended he had told “two big lies” to the court, namely that his client had collected the hotel room keys cards from him and his father and that Gerard Hutch had later “confessed” to his direct involvement in the murder.

Dowdall has testified that Gerard Hutch said that he and another man had shot Byrne at the Regency Hotel.

He also told prosecution counsel Sean Gillane SC that the accused said he “wasn’t happy about shooting the young lad David Byrne and David Byrne being killed”.

Asked by Gillane if Hutch had said who had shot Mr Byrne at the Regency Hotel in 2016, Dowdall replied: “He said it was him and ‘Mago’ Gately”.

Under cross-examination today, the State’s witness agreed with Grehan that he didn’t speak to Gardai until 29 November 2021, over six months after he was charged with Mr Byrne’s murder, when he got his solicitor Jenny McGeever to contact Detective Superintendent Paul Scott.

Dowdall said all he had in prison was the book of evidence and he wasn’t allowed to have printed transcripts from conversations between him and Hutch that had been secretly recorded by Gardai.

The witness said he was not on good terms with Gerard Hutch at the time but that Hutch had given him the transcripts for a few days. “Gerard Hutch was coming into my cell most mornings at 12am, I went along with Gerard, I had no other choice,” he said.

Asked by Grehan if he was forced to take a copy of the transcripts, Dowdall said the accused “didn’t force” him; “I was hardly going to tell him I’m going to the police”.

The former Dublin city councillor said he was in Wheatfield Prison when he got bail and that part of the conditions, which were read out on the landing for everyone to hear, were that he couldn’t mix with the Hutch family or friends.

He said “an amount of pressure was put on me” adding: “Gerard put demands on me when I was leaving Wheatfield Prison, I was to make myself available to his solicitor 24/7, he told me to contact his son, within a week when I didn’t go to his solicitor, he sent people to my home, sent letters in my door; all of those visits of people coming to my home demanding this stuff was on CCTV and given to Gardai”.

Dowdall said his objective in talking to Gardai in November 2021 was “to tell the truth”. “If I had told the truth about certain things when arrested I would never have been charged with murder,” he said.

Grehan asked the witness what else he was after apart from his desire to tell the truth after six-and-a-half years.

Dowdall replied: “When you find out a room is used that you know nothing about to set you up in a murder you had nothing to do with. I wanted to speak to Gardai. I was always going to speak to Gardai. I knew there were questions I had to explain to the guards”.

Charge dropped

When the lawyer put it to him that he always wanted to get the murder charged dropped, Dowdall said: “I wasn’t involved in the murder”.

The defence have previously submitted to the court it was “clear” there there was a “quid pro quo” in Dowdall’s murder charge being dropped by the State and Dowdall providing a witness statement and giving evidence at the trial.

The ex-politician said he hadn’t explained things when he was charged with murder which was partly his fault but that part of the reason was the danger to his wife and children.

“I wasn’t involved in the murder, why would I take the blame for the murder to keep other people happy,” he continued.

Asked if he accepted that part of his motivation in speaking to Gardai at that time was to get his murder charge dropped, Dowdall said: “It’s only natural if I’m not involved in the murder and if didn’t speak at the time ya want to clear up that you weren’t involved in the murder. Of course I didn’t want to be charged, people that had booked a room and put a person in a room to tie it to me and my family. No disguise, that was done intentionally”.

Dowdall continued: “You would want to be deranged to book a room for a situation if you knew something like that was going to happen. I wasn’t involved in David Byrne’s murder, I was always going to speak to gardai. There were guards involved in the last trial that played a part in collapsing that trial, I was not going to take risk to speak to anyone until it was safe to do”.

Dowdall then said “of course” he was trying to get the murder charge dropped as he wasn’t involved in murdering Mr Byrne. “If I could have had a natural way of defending myself,” he added.

Grehan put it to the witness that his “natural way of defending” himself was to put Gerard Hutch in the frame “before and after” the Regency attack happened.

“I didn’t put Gerard Hutch in the frame; Gerard Hutch put himself in the frame,” replied Dowdall.

Dowdall agreed with counsel that the only evidence the court had about Gerard Hutch collecting the hotel key card from him and “conversations of a confession” by the accused in a park was on his “say-so” and no one else’s.

Counsel for Hutch further put it to Dowdall that it had been all “Patsy, Patsy, Patsy” up to 4 February 2016 and then “looming out of the shadows” came Gerard Hutch.

“The Hutchs are willing to throw someone else under the bus, your client is willing to throw his own brother under the bus,” said Dowdall. “If it was Patsy who got the cards, I would have said it was Patsy”.

Grehan said “no one was throwing anyone under the bus” but the original plan was for the key card to be handed over to the man staying in the hotel.

“That would have looked like my father knew that man Flat Cap. That wasn’t the plan, that’s what was asked of my father. Yes I believe to try and connect that guy Kevin Murray to my father and me,” he said.

He continued: “They wanted my father to meet Flat Cap but we didn’t know who it was at the time. I didn’t know Flat Cap; how would that have looked, a room booked in my family name.”

“That would have looked like he’s our friend and here this man coming back with no disguise. How would that have looked, it’s lucky that didn’t happen. My father could have met that man”.

Witness Protection

The prosecution’s case is that the late dissident republican Kevin Murray used the hotel room at the Regency on the night of 4 February, that he was the man seen wearing a flat cap when Mr Byrne was killed and that he cooperated with the “tactical team” that raided the Regency Hotel on 5 February.

Mr Murray died from motor neurone disease in 2017 before he could be brought to trial.

The trial continues this afternoon before presiding judge Justice Tara Burns sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone.

Dowdall (44) – a married father of four with an address at Navan Road, Cabra, Dublin 7 – was due to stand trial for Mr Byrne’s murder alongside Hutch but pleaded guilty in advance of the trial to a lesser charge of facilitating the Hutch gang by making a hotel room available for use by the perpetrators the night before the attack.

Dowdall – who previously served as an elected Sinn Fein councillor in the north inner city ward in May 2014 and resigned less than one year later – was jailed by the Special Criminal Court for four years for the facilitation offence.

Following Dowdall’s sentence on 3 October, a decision not to proceed was entered on the murder charge against the former Dublin city councillor.

The status of Dowdall’s Witness Protection Programme (WPP) application still remains unknown.

The former electrician is being assessed for the WPP when he gets out of prison and a decision is not expected to be made about Dowdall’s admittance into the programme until the middle of January next year.

Dowdall has previous convictions for false imprisonment, threatening to kill and causing serious harm from January 2015.

Dowdall’s father Patrick Dowdall (65) was jailed for two years before the Regency trial started after he also admitted his part in booking the hotel room for the raiders.

Both Jonathan and Patrick Dowdall have pleaded guilty to participating in or contributing to activity intending to or being reckless as to whether such participation or contribution could facilitate the commission of a serious offence by a criminal organisation or any of its members, to wit the murder of David Byrne, by making a room available at the Regency Hotel, Drumcondra, Dublin 9 for that criminal organisation or its members, within the State on 4 February 2016.

The Special Criminal Court has viewed CCTV footage of what the State says is Hutch making two separate journeys to Northern Ireland with Dowdall on 20 February and 7 March 2016, just weeks after Mr Byrne was murdered.

Mr Byrne, from Crumlin, was shot dead at the hotel in Whitehall after five men, three disguised as armed Gardaí in tactical clothing and carrying AK-47 assault rifles, stormed the building during the attack, which was hosting a boxing weigh-in at the time.

The victim was shot by two of the tactical assailants and further rounds were delivered to his head and body.

Mr Byrne died after suffering catastrophic injuries from six gunshots fired from a high-velocity weapon to the head, face, stomach, hand and legs.

Hutch’s two co-accused – Paul Murphy (61), of Cherry Avenue, Swords, Co Dublin and Jason Bonney (50), of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, Dublin 13 have pleaded not guilty to participating in or contributing to the murder of David Byrne by providing access to motor vehicles on 5 February 2016.