File photo - Gerard Hutch (2008) RTÉ

'Curious development' in Hutch trial as document disclosed to defence

The non-jury court returned today following the Christmas break.

A “CURIOUS DEVELOPMENT” in the trial of Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch, who denies murdering Kinahan Cartel member David Byrne at the Regency Hotel, has seen a document disclosed to the defence, the Special Criminal Court heard this morning.

When the non-jury court returned today following the Christmas break Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, apologised to the three judges for what he described as “something of a false start this morning”.

Gillane informed the court that “a curious development” had arisen which resulted in the “generation of a document” that had been disclosed to the defence and primarily concerned Hutch.

“That isn’t the cause of the delay but the matter has to be looked into,” he added.

The prosecuting counsel went on to say that the other issue which had caused the delay was that a Garda witness was not available this morning. He asked the court to hear a short amount of evidence this morning and to reconvene tomorrow.

The barrister said a “narrow” legal issue had arisen with CCTV footage in the case and he was confident that this evidence would be completed by lunchtime tomorrow.

“We won’t lose time,” said Gillane.

Addressing Gillane, presiding judge Ms Justice Tara Burns said she now heard that the trial would conclude in two weeks.

Gillane said he hoped so but he did not know where “the development” would lead.

Hutch’s defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC told the court that he was in “broad agreement” with this estimate “subject to matters falling out of the sky”.

Grehan said the defence had not dealt with exhibits when the court finished up for Christmas on 21 December and he would be asking the court to make several items formal exhibits.

“I will have some limited cross-examination to elicit various matters which Jonathan Dowdall said about two specific issues. We will be endeavouring to deal with those in the most compact manner possible,” he said.

Ex-Sinn Féin councillor Dowdall, a former co-accused of Hutch who has turned State’s witness and who has pleaded guilty to facilitating Byrne’s murder, was on the stand for eight days in December and cross-examined for seven of those by Hutch’s defence counsel Grehan before the Christmas break.

Grehan said today that he was hoping the defence may be able to deal with some of these matters by way of “a section 22″ rather than having to call a range of gardaí to prove the interviews and memorandums taken from Dowdall, when he was arrested for the murder of Byrne in May 2016.

The State proceeded to call three very brief Garda witnesses today, two of whom gave evidence in relation to the harvesting of CCTV footage from two Dublin city locations.

Following this, Gillane informed the court that no more witnesses were available today.

The trial will continue tomorrow before Ms Justice Burns sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone.

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

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.

Dowdall testimony

In his direct evidence on 12 December last year, ex-politician Dowdall testified that Gerard Hutch told him in a park several days after the Regency attack, in or around 8 February 2016, that he and another man had shot Byrne at the hotel.

The former councillor testified that the accused said he “wasn’t happy about shooting the young lad David Byrne and David Byrne being killed”.

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

Grehan opened his cross-examination on 13 December by telling Dowdall the defence position was that the witness had told “two big lies” to the court, namely that his client had collected keys cards for a room at the Regency Hotel from Dowdall and his father on Richmond Road on 4 February 2016 and that Gerard Hutch had “confessed” to him in a park several days later.

On the final day of Dowdall’s cross-examination on 21 December, Grehan said he was challenging the witness’s suggestion that Gerard Hutch had “come out of the shadows” to take the key cards on 4 February.

“100% it was Gerard Hutch, if it was anyone else I would say. I have no reason to say it was Gerard Hutch. Why would I say I met Gerard Hutch and it wasn’t him,” said Dowdall.

Defence lawyers have argued that the second of the “big lies” told by Dowdall to the court in his direct evidence was that Gerard Hutch had “confessed” to him in a park in Whitehall in or around 8 February 2016 about his direct involvement in the murder of Byrne.

Dowdall agreed with Grehan in cross-examination that he had claimed he met Gerard Hutch on the day Eddie ‘Neddy’ Hutch was killed on Monday 8 February 2016. However, Dowdall said he wasn’t 100% sure if it was Sunday 7 February or Monday 8 February.

Eddie ‘Neddy’ Hutch was shot dead at his north-inner city home on 8 February 2016, in what was believed to be a revenge attack for the Regency Hotel shooting three days earlier.

Dowdall told the court: “What I’m telling is the truth, the truth is the truth. I wasn’t involved in David Byrne’s murder, he told me he shot the kid and he met me in the park, do what you want, it’s up to the court”.

On 21 December last, the Special Criminal Court heard that an analysis of Dowdall’s phone showed he was travelling towards Dundalk on one of his proposed dates for a meeting with Hutch – when the witness claims Hutch “confessed” his direct involvement in the murder of Byrne – while on the other proposed date his phone pinged off a mast potentially covering the area but “at least three hours” after he claimed he’d met the accused.

Dowdall (44) – a married father of four with an address at Navan Road, Cabra, Dublin 7 – was due to stand trial for Byrne’s murder alongside Gerard 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 Féin 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 nolle prosequi – a decision not to proceed – was entered on the murder charge against the former Dublin city councillor.

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

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

Byrne, from Crumlin, was shot dead at the hotel in Whitehall, Dublin 9 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.

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

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Alison O'Riordan