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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Regency Hotel murder

Dowdall asked garda if he and family could enter witness protection, court hears

A garda gave evidence today in the Special Criminal Court.

FORMER SINN FÉIN councillor Jonathan Dowdall, a former co-accused of Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch who has turned State’s witness, asked a garda “is there any way out” and “if him and his family could get into the Witness Protection Programme” in the days following his arrest, the Regency Hotel murder trial has heard.

The Special Criminal Court has already heard that the status of Dowdall’s Witness Protection Programme (WPP) application remains unknown and that a decision will not be made until the middle of this month. Before Dowdall took the stand on 12 December, a Detective Superintendent from the WPP, testified that the key witness’s assessment for the WPP was “ongoing” and was “completely independent” from the evidence he gave to the court.

Gerard Hutch (59), last of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin 3, denies the murder of Kinahan Cartel member David 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 (52), 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.

Giving evidence today, retired member of An Garda Siochana Michael Mulligan told Fiona Murphy SC, prosecuting, that he was involved in the investigation into the murder of Byrne when he attended Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport on 17 May 2016 and observed Jonathan Dowdall in the company of his family.

Mulligan said he observed Dowdall “clear security” in Terminal 2 before he approached him, identified himself and arrested him for murder with a firearm at the Regency Hotel. Dowdall was detained at Clontarf Garda Station.

When Dowdall was under cross-examination for seven days by Hutch’s defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC before the Christmas break, the ex-politician said he had gone through security in the airport in May 2016 and was about to board a plane to go to see his sister in Dubai when he was arrested for the murder of Byrne.

Dowdall later told counsel in his cross-examination that he was booked to go away to Dubai saying: “I wasn’t coming home, I had set up work in Dubai and I was staying in Dubai”.

Mulligan said today that he searched Dowdall in the airport and took possession of his mobile phone. The father-of-four supplied Mulligan with a pin number for his phone and informed the officer that there was correspondence on the handset from his solicitor. Mulligan told Dowdall that he would not examine the phone until he received further directions from his superiors.

On the evening of 19 May 2016, Dowdall was taken to the Criminal Courts of Justice Building to have his detention further extended. When Dowdall was returned to Clontarf Garda Station, Mulligan said that two of the prisoner’s daughters came to visit him. “While in that room, he said ‘is there any way out’,” said the witness. Mulligan said he told Dowdall that he was not having “this conversation” with him.

Mulligan said he had a further conversation with Dowdall on the evening of 20 May 2016 when he was visited by his wife Patricia and one of her brothers. “As I was exiting the room, he [Dowdall] got up and asked could he talk to me in private. He asked if him and his family could get into the WPP”.

Mulligan said he told Dowdall “that was above me and for his solicitor and the DPP”. The witness said he informed his superiors and that this encounter happened after Dowdall emerged from the doctor’s room in the garda station where the visit was taking place.


Under cross-examination by Brendan Grehan SC, defending Hutch, Mulligan agreed he was the arresting officer for Dowdall and that he had waited to arrest him after he had gone through security at Dublin Airport. “He was there with his wife and three children. I allowed him to process himself through security, I wasn’t going to do it in front of his family. I approached him as he was removing items from the tray,” he said.

Mulligan said it was only Dowdall leaving the country at that stage and that he had arrested him for the murder of Byrne.

The witness said Dowdall had replied ‘I think it’s a joke’ when he was told by the detaining member of An Garda Síochána that he could be kept for questioning for up to seven days.

Mulligan said members of the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation had interviewed Dowdall and that he was not involved in the process.

Asked by Grehan why he was the arresting member, Mulligan said it was for no particular reason and that he had a conversation with the late Detective Superintendent Colm Fox [who led the investigation into the attack at the Regency Hotel], who informed him that Dowdall was to be arrested.

Mulligan agreed that Dowdall could have been under no misapprehension at the time that he was being arrested for the murder of Byrne at the Regency Hotel and was going to be detained for up to seven days.

He said he was later involved in bringing Dowdall to court where his detention was extended as the former councillor could only be detained for 48 hours from the time of his arrest.

Grehan put it to the witness that when Dowdall had given evidence before Christmas he had said he only became aware he was to be questioned about the “Alexander Hurley matter” when he was brought before the District Court.

“I didn’t make the court aware of it and I can’t recall it being said before the court,” replied Mulligan.

Mulligan agreed with the lawyer that by this stage, interviewing gardaí “had moved on to the audio of Dowdall’s trip up north” when his jeep was bugged.

The conversations between Hutch and Dowdall took place when they were allegedly travelling north to a meeting in Strabane in Co Tyrone on 7 March 2016 in Dowdall’s Toyota Land Cruiser jeep that had been bugged by garda detectives. The prosecution’s case is that Hutch had asked Dowdall to arrange a meeting with his provisional republican contacts to mediate or resolve the Hutch-Kinahan feud due to the threats against the accused’s family and friends.

The court has heard that a USB key showing Dowdall and his father Patrick Dowdall torturing Alexander Hurley was found inside a kitchen press at Dowdall’s house on the Navan Road in Cabra, when the address was searched on March 9 2016 as gardai believed that firearms and explosives were being stored there on behalf of the IRA.

In June 2017, Dowdall was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment and his father Patrick Dowdall eight years imprisonment after pleading guilty to falsely imprisoning Hurley and threatening to kill him at Jonathan’s family home on 15 January 2015.

Dowdall was later re-sentenced to 7 years and 11 months and Patrick Dowdall to four years imprisonment after successful appeals.

The barrister asked the witness at what point had Dowdall asked the question ‘is there any way out?’. Mulligan said it took place on 19 May, when they had returned from the District Court after a judge had extended his detention period.

The witness added: “I supervised a visit between Jonathan Dowdall and his daughter, it was prior to her entering the room that he said that comment.”

Mulligan agreed gardaí had interviewed Dowdall ten times by this time and that he told the prisoner he was not having that conversation with him. Dowdall’s solicitor was with him throughout his detention, he said.

The witness also agreed that the next interaction he had with Dowdall was on May 20 at 6.30pm, when he asked the officer if they could talk in private. “He was having a visit with his wife and her brother and said ‘can I talk to you in private and said can me and my family go into the WPP’. I said that’s above me, you get your solicitor to talk to the DPP,” said Mulligan.

He agreed that he made a note of Dowdall’s comment at the time and passed it onto his superiors. No decision had been taken at this stage as to whether Dowdall was to be charged with the murder of Byrne, said the witness, adding that the former councillor was still being detained and questioned in relation to the murder of Byrne at the Regency Hotel.

Asked by presiding judge Justice Tara Burns if Dowdall was charged with murder when his detention came to an end, the witness said he wasn’t and that he was charged in relation to another matter at the end of his detention period.

Car seizure

The next witness, Detective Sergeant Alan Lynch, testified that he got a call from Garda Stephen Enright on 9 February 2016 seeking assistance on North Great Charles Street in Dublin 1 having seized a black Skoda vehicle which had allegedly been involved in the Regency attack.

The detective said he arrived at the scene at 11.32am and that Garda Enright was parked up beside the vehicle. A male by the name of Jonathan Hutch of Dublin 1 told the witness that he was the owner of the car for the previous year, that he had driven it the previous night and provided them with his mobile number. Det Sgt Lynch informed the driver that he was seizing the vehicle and that the key to the vehicle was handed over. The Skoda was conveyed to Gannons City Recovery in Donabate and placed in a secure evidence shed.

Retired Garda Phillip Nalty said he examined the Skoda car for finger marks but with negative results. He found a blue Nokia phone in a side pocket and a white Nokia phone in the glovebox. There was also a black Samsung phone in the front passenger door pocket.

The trial also heard today that the glovebox handset was only used on February 5 between 9am and 2pm and that only three contacts were saved on the device, with each of the three saved phone numbers “in near sequence” to each other. The four phones were activated on the morning of the murder and €10 credit was added to each of the devices.

Detective Sergeant Michael Ryan testified that phones were seized from Jonathan Dowdall, Dowdall’s wife Patricia, Dowdall’s father Patrick, Bonney, Murphy and Patsy Hutch. Reports were compiled on their data, the court heard.

The trial will continue on Monday before Justice Burns sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone, when it is expected that the court will rule on whether CCTV footage is admissible as evidence against accused Murphy.

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 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 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, namely 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.