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Sasko Lazarov/ Armed garda presence outside the Criminal Courts of Justice today.
regency hotel shooting

Gerry Hutch told Jonathan Dowdall he was 'one of the team' that shot David Byrne, trial hears

The 59-year-old is accused of killing David Byrne at Dublin’s Regency Hotel in 2016.

LAST UPDATE | Oct 18th 2022, 5:56 PM

GERARD ‘THE MONK’ Hutch told former Sinn Fein councillor Jonathan Dowdall that he was “one of the team” that murdered Kinahan gang member David Byrne at the Regency Hotel in 2016, the Special Criminal Court heard today.

The Regency attack was “performative, targeted” and had elements of “the militaristic and the macabre”, prosecution counsel Sean Gillane SC told the three judges of the non-jury court.

The court was also told today that Dowdall had attempted to get his “republican contacts” to mediate or resolve the Hutch-Kinahan feud and that Hutch had asked Dowdall to arrange a meeting with provisional republicans due to the threats against the accused man’s family and friends.

It was during the opening of the trial of Hutch and two other men at the non-jury court today that Gillane said the murder of Byrne and the manner in which it had been carried out attracted a “considerable amount of publicity” and this included a photograph of a man in a wig and another man wearing a flat cap, which appeared in the Sunday World newspaper.

The three-judge court will hear that Hutch contacted Jonathan Dowdall and arranged to meet him in a carpark in Whitehall, days after the shooting, to discuss this published photograph.

The prosecution say that Hutch was described as being “very worked up and edgy” about the photograph.

“Jonathan Dowdall said Hutch said that they had carried out the murder and that he [Gerry Hutch] had been one of the team that shot Byrne at the Regency,” said Gillane.

It is the prosecution case, Gillane said, that “this deliberate killing” was carried out “without restraint” by a group of people, of whom Hutch was one.

The Special Criminal Court was also told today that Hutch had asked Dowdall to arrange a meeting with provisional republicans due to the escalation of the Hutch/Kinahan feud and the threats to his family and friends.

Dowdall drove Hutch to meet the republicans on 20 February.

The three-judge court is also to hear evidence, Gillane said, that Dowdall drove Hutch north to another meeting in Strabane in Co Tyrone on 7 March 2016 and that their vehicle was the subject of surveillance.

Dowdall and Hutch’s conversation was recorded and “many topics were traversed” including events at the Regency, the existence of the feud with the Kinahan Organised Crime Group, the personnel and “efforts to make peace or agree a ceasefire”, said Gillane.

Hutch was captured on the recording saying: “It’s hard to get involved where the Kinahan’s are concerned, ’cause if it doesn’t work, the messenger gets it”.

Hutch was also recorded as saying that he “was not going to show a weak hand and go looking for peace”, the court heard.

There were also repeated references to the village, which counsel said refers to Buckingham village.

Gillane said the Special Criminal Court will also hear that in the course of this conversation “explicit references” were made to “three yokes” and giving them “as a present” to the republicans in the north, which he said referred to the assault rifles used in the Regency Hotel attack.

There was also reference to the weapons having made a “massive statement” and that if the weapons were moved to the north they could be “ballistically traced”.

Hutch also said that “one particular republican contact knows it was them at the Regency”.

The court will also hear, said counsel, that Dowdall gave Hutch a keycard to a room at the Regency Hotel the night before the murder, which was used by one of the six gunman involved in the attack.

Hutch (59), last of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin 3, is charged with murdering 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.

Arraigned on the charge before the non-jury Special Criminal Court today, the 59-year-old pleaded not guilty to the single count on the indictment and the trial is underway at the non-jury court today.

Hutch was present in court for the opening of the case, where he sported a full mane of grey hair and used a pair of headphones, as he is hard of hearing. He wore a navy suit jacket, a blue open-necked shirt and dark trousers.

Hutch’s two co-accused – Paul Murphy (59), of Cherry Avenue, Swords, Co Dublin and Jason Bonney (50), of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, Dublin 13 were also arraigned before the non-jury court today and are standing trial alongside Hutch.

They both pleaded not 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 providing access to individual motor vehicles to that criminal organisation or its members, within the State on 5 February, 2016.

Byrne, from Crumlin, was shot dead after five men, three disguised as armed Gardaí in tactical clothing, stormed the building, 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.

The former president of the Boxing Union of Ireland today told the court that there was “panic” and “mayhem” when the gunmen opened fire.

Mel Christle, a barrister and former boxer, told prosecution counsel that he saw a corpse with its face “blown off” and two others being treated for what appeared to be gunshot wounds.

He described a scene of panic and said he noticed a “general weakness in people because it was clear they had never witnessed anything like this.”

A significant security operation took place at the Criminal Courts of Justice building on Parkgate Street today, where members of the Garda Armed Support Unit and Garda Emergency Response Unit were present in the building.

Sadie Byrne, the mother of David Byrne, was in court to hear the opening of the trial on behalf of the State.

Opening the prosecution case today and detailing the background to the murder of Byrne, Gillane said the court would hear that on 5 February, 2016, the Regency Hotel was hosting a weigh-in for a boxing event due to take place the following day at the National Stadium that had been advertised as the ‘Clash of the Clans’.

The event, widely publicised on social media, was a co-promotion between Queensberry Promotions and MGM, a Marbella-based firm which ran a boxing management company and a boxing gym in Marbella in Spain, the barrister said.

The event in Dublin was to include boxers associated with the gym and a number of these people’s presence was anticipated at the event.

The supervision of the weigh-in was due to take place on the afternoon of February 6 in the Regency Suite, a large room with a closed bar and a raised stage.

Gillane said very large groups of people were present, including boxers, trainers, managers and members of the public including children.

He said that court will hear that in and around the time of the weigh in, at another location, a number of motor vehicles were observed on CCTV driving from Donnycarney towards St Vincent’s GAA club, a short distance to the east of the Regency hotel.

The cars could be seen travelling to the GAA grounds and parking up there, he added.

The court, he said, will also be concerned with two vehicles, a Toyota Avensis taxi and a black BMW.

The court will hear evidence that as the weigh-in was underway, at 2:20pm, a silver Ford Transit van pulled up in front of a security gate located between the Regency Hotel and Grace Park Manor housing. The van was idling for a period of minutes.

Seven minutes later, a man wearing a flat cap and a man wearing a wig and dressed as a woman can be seen getting out of the van and walking toward the hotel.

The court will hear that they entered the hotel through a laundry room entrance and were seen by a number of staff. This was also captured on the hotel’s CCTV cameras.

The two men, armed with handguns, proceeded together arm-in-arm through the hotel.

The barrister said the court will hear evidence that boxer Gerry Sweeney was in the process of having his weigh-in completed, when there were “gunfire, gunshots and cracking sounds”.

“A number of shots discharged caused all-round panic,” he said.

The man with the wig and the man wearing the flat cap were observed carrying handguns in the suite and then observed moving down the corridor following the crowds.

“As people ran, the two men gave chase,” he said.

The two men exited the hotel and re-entered again through the laundry room entrance, having performed a complete loop, he said.

He said the court will hear evidence that at 2:29pm the same silver Ford transit van was observed going through the security gate and pulled up in front of the hotel before three individuals dressed as Gardaí in armed tactical style clothing emerged.

They were armed with assault rifles and went to the main hotel entrance.

The van, whose side door was open, did a U-turn and remained in position.

“The presence of people dressed as Gardaí caused further confusion as some people thought they were in fact Gardaí,” said Gillane.

The court will hear that a number of shots were discharged from the firearms as they went into the hotel, which caused “further panic”, he said.

CCTV footage had “clearly captured” the persons dressed in tactical clothing.

Photographs were taken by members of the media attending the event.

He added: “The shooting was clearly not indiscriminate, it had elements of the militaristic and the macabre, having taken place in the city in the middle of the day”.

In essence, Gillane said the operation was performative, targeted and it was clear that particular individuals were being looked for.

Gillane said the court will hear that the deceased,  Byrne, can be seen running from the Regency Suite area towards the main reception when he was shot by “Tactical 1 and Tactical 2″ – two of the men in Garda uniforms.

Byrne remained “prone” on the ground at the reception desk.

On the other side of the desk, another male took cover by jumping over the desk and lying on the ground.

One of the men in Garda uniform then jumped onto the reception desk, pointed the weapon at the man but did not discharge it.

The court will hear that the gunman then jumped back over the desk, to where Byrne was lying on the ground, and “calmly and coldly” discharged rounds into the victim’s head and body.

Byrne’s postmortem showed that he received six gunshot wounds from a high velocity weapon.

Two other individuals were shot but they didn’t cooperate with the investigation, he said.

After this, the tactical team continued at speed looking through the bar and reception areas. Most of the search was captured on CCTV footage and one of the tactical team was captured going towards the laundry room entrance.

It was clear the raiders, Gillane said, were looking for specific persons and the man in the wig was heard to shout: “I don’t know where he is” and “I couldn’t fucking find him”.

The evidence will be that the van meanwhile parked outside, was idling, waiting for the alleged gunmen.

The tactical team left the hotel and went towards the silver transit van. The man wearing the wig and the man in the flat cap emerged from the laundry room door and got into the van through the opened side door.

Gillane said the van contained six people; the man in the flat cap, the man dressed as a woman, a driver and three persons dressed in tactical garda clothing.

The van drove away towards Charlemont Estate, where it was abandoned and burnt out.

“Cooked ammunition”, which was capable of being discharged from AK47′s, was subsequently discovered around the van.

The six raiders, he said, can be seen running down a lane into St Vincent’s GAA club at 2.40pm.

The man in the wig was pulling a large suitcase type bag and the man in the flat cap was carrying a bag. The other three had changed out of their tactical uniforms.

The raiders used a number of parked vehicles, he said, and the man wearing the flat cap placed a bag in the rear of the car that he got into.

The six cars were captured leaving the GAA club and turning onto the Malahide Road.

Gillane said an investigation commenced into the circumstances of the murder of Byrne.

“It became apparent that it was an execution style killing combined with a sophisticated level of planning, which spoke to the involvement of a large organised group rather than some random group,” he said.

The three-judge court, Gillane said, will hear evidence from a detective about the existence of the Kinahan Hutch feud, who will speak first hand of his knowledge of the Hutch criminal organisation and their involvement in violence for many years.

A manifest of hotel guests was obtained from the hotel by Gardaí.

The court will hear that Room 2014 was booked over the phone in the name of Patrick Dowdall and a contact number was given for the booking, said Gillane.

A credit card used by a Dowdall family member was used to secure the room.

One of the investigating members telephoned the number and spoke to a male who confirmed that he was Patrick Dowdall.

CCTV footage from 5 February was obtained from the Regency Hotel and Patrick Dowdall can be clearly seen entering the hotel and engaging with the receptionist at 7.20pm, said counsel.

It is clear, Gillane said, that Patrick Dowdall pays for the room and that he can be seen filling in registration details and receiving a key card as well as directions to the room. Patrick Dowdall uses the key card to enter the room but leaves a few minutes later.

Around this time, the lawyer said, a phone associated with Jonathan Dowdall uses a mast located at the hotel.

Jonathan Dowdall had driven his father to the hotel that evening and remained there until Patrick Dowdall paid for the room and obtained the room’s key cards, said counsel.

The court will also hear evidence, the lawyer said, that Jonathan Dowdall had been in Strabane with his father earlier that day in an attempt to speak with their republican contacts to get them to mediate or resolve the feud.

The court will also hear, the barrister indicated, that arrangements were made to bring the key cards to another man and Jonathan Dowdall drove his father to Richmond Road for that purpose.

Another part of the prosecution case will be that on arrival there, Hutch approached Jonathan Dowdall’s vehicle and asked for the key cards, which were handed to him.

This, Gillane said, was an important step in the murder of Byrne, as the room was subsequently used by Kevin Murray, one of the gunmen.

The prosecution barrister went on to tell the court that Kevin Murray arrived at the Regency Hotel by taxi an hour later.

The court will be satisfied that Kevin Murray was the same man wearing the flat cap when Byrne was killed and that he had cooperated with the tactical team, he said.

Murray did not approach the hotel’s reception and went straight to the room where Patrick Dowdall had been in that evening.

It was clear he had a key card, entered the room and mixed in the lobby that night, said counsel.

The following morning on 5 February, Murray can be seen leaving his room and carrying a holdall bag.

He waited in the lobby where he was picked up by a taxi at 10.30am.

An integral part of the operation which led to Byrne’s death was the means by which the tactical team escaped, which is central to the case of Bonney and Murphy, he said.

The lawyer also said that Buckingham Street and Buckingham village were important, as these locations became operative at 11.20am on the day of the murder.

Vehicles of interest, he said, were seen entering Buckingham village including a black X5 jeep associated with Bonney and a green Toyota Avensis linked to Murphy.

The court also heard the evidence will be that Shane Rowan was observed driving a vehicle to Dublin to meet an individual on 9 March 2016, when he was stopped by Gardaí outside Slane in Co Meath and arrested.

His car was searched and three assault type rifles were found in the rear of the car. They were later matched to cartridges recovered from the Regency hotel.

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

With additional reporting from Eoin Reynolds

Comments are closed as legal proceedings are ongoing. 

Alison O'Riordan