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File photo - The Criminal Courts of Justice, Dublin Alamy Stock Photo
Courts

Trial of Gerard 'The Monk' Hutch hears from photographers and CCTV footage of shooting shown

Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch is accused of killing David Byrne at Dublin’s Regency Hotel in 2016.

LAST UPDATE | Oct 19th 2022, 6:11 PM

A NEWSPAPER PHOTOGRAPHER, who was present at the Regency Hotel when Kinahan gang member David Byrne was shot, has told the Special Criminal Court that he was in fear of his life and had tried to make himself as “unthreatening” as possible as gunmen dressed as members of the Emergency Response Unit walked by him.

The witness also testified today that reporter Robin Schiller told him he had seen Daniel Kinahan at the far side of the Regency Suite where the boxing weigh-in was taking place.

Colin O’Riordan was giving evidence at the trial of Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch (59), last of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin 3, who denies the murder of Kinahan gang member David Byrne (33) during a boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel on the Swords Road, Whitehall, Dublin 9 on 5 February 2016.

Hutch’s two co-accused – Paul Murphy (59), of Cherry Avenue, Swords, Co Dublin and Jason Bonney (50), of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, Dublin 13 have also pleaded not guilty to participating in or contributing to the murder of David Byrne by providing access to motor vehicles on 5 February 2016.

Byrne, from Crumlin, was shot dead at the hotel on the Swords Road in Dublin on 5 February 2016 after five men, three disguised as armed gardaí in tactical clothing, stormed the building, which was hosting a boxing weigh-in at the time.

Evidence from photographers

Giving evidence today, O’Riordan told prosecution counsel Sean Gillane SC that he was working for Independent Newspapers and Media in 2016 and was asked by the photo desk to cover the boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel on 5 February. O’Riordan said he was advised by his office to only bring his iPhone to the event and not his photo equipment.

The witness said he met reporter Robin Schiller on the front steps of the hotel and they went to the Regency Suite where the weigh-in was taking place.

“We sat down and surveyed who was in the room and what was going on,” he said.

O’Riordan started photographing the weigh-in using his iPhone and they stayed there for 15 minutes.

“Robin said he spotted Daniel Kinahan, he was at the far side of the room. I couldn’t see him, I wouldn’t have 100% known what he looked like at that time,” he said.

They both decided to leave the weigh-in as there was nothing more to get and went outside to the front steps of the hotel, where two vans were parked.

“We were talking about what happened inside and the next thing we heard a bang. Robin said that it was a gunshot,” said O’Riordan.

The witness said almost immediately two individuals dressed as gardaí in “Emergency Response Unit paramilitary style wear” appeared on the steps of the hotel.

“They were carrying AK-47s and wearing balaclavas, all the paraphernalia of emergency gardaí,” he added.

O’Riordan said that his one thought as the individuals entered the building was that “no gardai use AK-47s” and “that it was completely bogus”. He said there were “garda signs” on the back of their jackets.

The witness heard a gunshot behind him and to his right beyond the silver van. He said he was standing at the far side of the first van and could see the front section of a barrel belonging to another weapon.

O’Riordan said he could hear gunshots coming from inside the hotel foyer.

“I remained where I was because the third individual behind the van didn’t know I was there and I thought it was wiser to stay where I was than spook him for fear he might shoot me,” he said.

He could see one of the people dressed as a member of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) standing on a desk inside the foyer and that he had his gun pointed down on “the chap” behind the desk. The man on the desk then turned and jumped back into the foyer area, he said.

Moments later, O’Riordan said two of the members dressed as the ERU exited the front door right in front of him.

“I stood back because I was in fear of my life. I tried to make myself as unthreatening as I could. I said to the guard ‘I don’t know where I should be’. They briskly walked by me with the weapons. They walked briskly to the silver van,” said the witness.

O’Riordan said he couldn’t say exactly how many shots he had heard that day but “in or around 12″.

The witness said that a man dressed as a woman and wearing a wig approached from the opposite direction.

“It was too tall to be a woman, it was definitely a fella dressed as a woman with some sort of pistol in his hand,” he said.

O’Riordan said that as the man in the wig approached the van he heard him say: “He wasn’t there, I couldn’t find him”. He also heard someone else say: “Get the fuck out of here”. Both individuals had Dublin accents, he said. These two individuals also got into the van, which headed in the direction of the back of the hotel.

The witness said he thought it was a good idea to leave the hotel as he thought those in the van would come back and use the weapons again.

He said there was a lot of shouting and screaming as people started to emerge from the hotel. “People were cowering down behind the wall of the hotel, fearing they were going to be shot,” he said.

O’Riordan collected his camera equipment from his car and returned to the scene to photograph it as he ordinarily would “for any crime scene”. He was advised by gardaí to leave the area and one or two individuals shouted at him: “Get the fucking camera out of here”.

Ernie Leslie, a freelance photographer contracted to the Sunday World in February 2016, said he attended the weigh-in at the Regency Hotel with his colleague Alan Sherry.

The event was being hosted by MGM Marbella which they were aware was connected to the Kinahan Organised Crime Gang, he said.

He said they parked up in a small estate near the hotel when they heard a “loud bang like a gunshot”.

They didn’t initially believe it was a gunshot because of the time of day, he said.

It was only when they saw people running from the hotel in a panicked state that they realised it was gunfire.

He said the sound was coming from the back of the hotel so he drove to the carpark at the back of the hotel.

They noticed a silver van parked on the left. The driver’s window of the van was open and his attention was drawn to a hand coming out the window “holding a machine gun of some kind, a long-barrelled weapon,” he said.

The photographer said that when he saw the gun coming out of the van’s window he immediately grabbed his camera to get a picture and as he took the shot, he noticed a man wearing a flat cap running towards him.

Leslie told the court “instinctively, it didn’t look right” so he turned and took a series of photographs.

After taking the series of shots his colleague, Alan Sherry, shouted at him to get out because he saw “a gun swung around pointing at us. I didn’t see that”, Leslie said.

He said as he reversed out he tried to get a picture of the van pulling out.

Other evidence

James McGettigan testified that his father owned the Regency Hotel and that he was its director. He said that they had never staged anything like a boxing weigh-in before nor did they ever have that amount of boxers staying in the hotel.

McGettigan said he was standing in the bar around 2.30pm when the door suddenly opened and two or three “masked gardaí” with guns rushed towards the bar, which “was a bit of a surprise”.

He said the way they entered the room was very aggressive and he got the impression that they looked like ERU gardaí.

One of the “masked gardaí” asked for everyone to lie on the ground and they started to look for the boxers, he said.

“I stood in front of one of the men with the guns, he was holding it towards me. I expected him to identify himself as a guard but nothing happened at that point,” he said.

This man was completely covered up, he said, and formed the impression that he wasn’t a guard after a while. He looked quite young in his early 20s and was quite slight, he said.

“His face was covered up with a ski mask but I could see his eyes,” he added. He said the man disappeared after 40 seconds and he dashed for the residents lounge as he felt something untoward was going on.

After locking the door, McGettigan said he rang 999 but had difficulty getting through. He got through on the third occasion.

Retired Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis told prosecution counsel Sean Gillane SC that Byrne suffered catastrophic injuries and that he conducted a post mortem on his remains on February 6.

The witness said that he died as a result of six gunshots, fired from a high-velocity weapon, to the face, head, stomach, hand and legs. Dr Curtis said the injuries sustained would have been rapidly if not instantaneously fatal. The cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds.

CCTV

CCTV footage of the fatal shooting of Byrne at the Regency Hotel was also shown to the Special Criminal Court today. The court saw a silver van pull up at the hotel and a man with a wig and another man wearing a flat cap exit the van and enter the hotel through the laundry room.

The three-judge court then saw footage of three people in tactical gear leaving the van before two individuals dressed as members of the ERU shot Byrne in the lobby of the hotel at around 2.30pm as people ran out of the hotel.

Footage was also shown of six people on Charlemont Lane – including the man in the wig pulling a suitcase and the man with a flat cap carrying a bag- running along a lane towards various cars at St Vincent’s GAA club at 2.40pm.

CCTV footage was also shown of Patrick Dowdall arriving at the Regency Hotel at 7.23pm on the evening of 4 February. He approaches the reception desk, hands over cash and is given key cards. He is seen getting into a lift, gets out on the second floor of the hotel and enters the room at 7.28pm. Seven minute later he left the room.

Patrick Dowdall (65) pleaded guilty in advance of the trial to a charge of facilitating the Hutch gang by making a hotel room available ahead of the murder and was sentenced to two years imprisonment this week.

The non-jury court also saw Kevin Murray arriving at the hotel at 8.44pm that evening and throwing a bag on his shoulder. The court heard that Murray came into the hotel lobby, used the lift and had a key card in his hand. He goes into the room and is seen leaving it again at 10.09pm.

The next morning Murray is seen leaving the room at 9.54am. He emerges with the same bag as he had the previous night. He engages with a receptionist in the hotel lobby and gets a taxi at 10.30am.

The trial continues tomorrow before Ms Justice Tara Burns, presiding, sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone. It is expected to last 12 weeks.

Comments are closed as legal proceedings are ongoing. 

Author
Alison O'Riordan