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Monday 27 March 2023 Dublin: 8°C
# regency shooting
Taxi driver in Hutch trial told Gardaí that his car could have been 'cloned', court hears
Paul Murphy told detectives that he had purchased the vehicle from the older brother of Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch

A TAXI DRIVER accused of participating in the murder of Kinahan Cartel member David Byrne at the Regency Hotel by providing access to a vehicle told Gardaí that his Toyota Avensis taxi could have been “cloned”, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

Paul Murphy also told detectives in his first interview that he had purchased the vehicle from the older brother of Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch, Eddie ‘Neddie’ Hutch, who he had known since he was a “young fella” and had paid him €175 per week for a year.

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 Byrne by providing access to motor vehicles on 5 February, 2016.

It is the prosecution’s case that a silver Ford transit van containing six people left the Regency Hotel after the shooting, including three persons dressed in tactical Garda clothing.

The raiders then made good their escape by using a number of parked vehicles at St Vincent’s GAA club.

Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, said in his opening address that “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.

Now retired Detective Garda Alan Crummey told Gillane today that he took a statement from Murphy at his Swords address on 22 February 2016.

In the statement, Murphy said he had been a taxi driver for the last 20 years and owned a green coloured Toyota Avensis since 2012, which he said Gardaí had seized off him “the other night”.

He rented a taxi plate off another man and said he normally worked his days on the northside of the city.

Referring to Friday 5 February 2016, Murphy said in his statement he had taken “small jobs” or fares to places like Sheriff Street.

He said the receipts would show the dates, times and costs and how long the journeys lasted.

Shortly after taking a fare at around 1.10pm, Murphy said he pulled into the Maxol Garage on the Howth Road and got a coffee and a ham sandwich.

He said he then drove to The Beachcomber Pub on the Howth Road and reversed into a parking space to eat his sandwich for up to 15 minutes.

Murphy said he drove up Collins Avenue through Fairview and into the city centre.

He said he heard about the shooting at the Regency Hotel on the news at 3pm and thought he was on the North Circular Road at the time.

He then drove to Drumcondra where “the traffic was mental” and said he could see “police all over the place” at the Regency Hotel. He didn’t work the rest of the day and went home.

The accused told Gardaí in his statement that he didn’t know about anything that “went on” in the Regency Hotel that day.

He said he knew Eddie ‘Neddie’ Hutch, who had previously worked with him at Exchequer Cabs, but that he would not have been a friend of his.

“Drivers were nervous about the association with ‘Neddie’ Hutch,” he added. He said he was the only one that drove the Avensis on the day of the shooting.

Crummey said he met Murphy again on 3 March 2016 at the Croke Park Hotel to take an additional statement from him.

In the statement, Murphy said: “I want to say further to my last meeting my Avensis taxi could have been cloned. The reason I say this is that I recently got two fines for speeding and littering and I never litter. I’m not inclined to speed cause of my job”.

The accused said the littering fine was for throwing a cigarette butt out the window but he did not think that was him.

Murphy told Gardaí that he didn’t pay the fines and would go to court. He said he had no information about the shooting.

The witness said he met again with Murphy at the Croke Park Hotel on 9 March 2016 and took another statement from him.

Murphy was shown a copy of the receipt roll from his taxi from 5 February and there were 11 fares in total.

The fares started that day at 10.50am and finished at 4.22pm. The accused was asked by Gardaí about two phones found in his car but said he had only used one of the phones on one occasion and the other for no more than a day.

On 30 May 2016, Crummey met Murphy by appointment at the Travelodge Hotel in Swords and arrested him for the murder of Byrne with a firearm at the Regency Hotel.

Under cross-examination, Crummey told Bernard Condon SC, defending Murphy, that the meeting on 3 March was voluntarily and at the accused’s suggestion.

In his first interview with Gardaí at Ballymun Garda Station on 30 May 2016, Murphy said he was originally from Sean McDermott Street and had lived there until he was 12 years old before moving to Avondale House.

He said he had applied for a taxi licence over 20 years ago and had bought the Avensis off Eddie ‘Neddie’ Hutch and paid him €175 per week for a year.

“Is that ‘Neddie’ who recently passed?” asked Gardaí. The accused replied: “Yes, him and his brothers used to get cars and then sell them on”.

Murphy said he was working for Exchequer Taxis and worked out of their base in Parnell Street.

He would work off the radio and pick fares up off the street in the Dublin 1,3,7 and 9 areas.

The accused said he had paid Eddie Hutch, who also worked out of the Parnell Street branch, in cash for the Avensis.

Murphy said he knew Eddie ‘Neddie’ Hutch from when he was a “young fella”, before he had bought the taxi from him.

The colour of the four-door saloon Avensis vehicle was green on the log-book but it was gold in colour, he added.

Eddie ‘Neddie’ 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.

Garda Michelle Purcell has previously taken the Special Criminal Court through a montage of CCTV footage showing the movements of a light coloured taxi.

Gillane told the three judges that the prosecution case is that the driver is accused man Paul Murphy but that it has yet to be established in evidence.

At 1.14pm on 5 February, the taxi turns left into a Maxol service station on the Howth Road and the driver goes inside the premises before returning to his car.

The driver, who is dressed in blue jeans, a navy jacket and a wine jumper, used his credit card to pay for items, said Gda Purcell, adding that the taxi then drives onto the Howth Road and towards Killester.

At 1.41pm on February 5, a black BMW jeep comes into view in a line of traffic and turns right onto Collins Avenue- [a road close to the Regency Hotel in Whitehall].

The taxi can be seen “coming out” of a parking space and also turning right onto Collins Avenue following the jeep.

The three-judge court previously viewed CCTV footage showing a man reversing a black BMW X5 jeep out of Drumnigh Wood in Portmarnock at 11.38am on 5 February. 

Gillane told the non-jury court that the prosecution case is that the man getting into the jeep is Hutch’s co-accused Jason Bonney.

However, Bonney’s defence barrister John Fitzgerald SC said this evidence would be challenged and that it was a legal issue.

In a clip at 2.47pm, the taxi can be seen at the junction of Empress Place and Bella Place before turning left into Bella Street.

Seven minutes later the taxi can be seen coming out of Bella Street towards Empress Place, she said.

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.

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