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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 11°C
RTÉ.ie Gerard Hutch is charged with the murder of David Byrne at the Regency Hotel in Dublin on 5 February, 2016.
Special Criminal Court

Jonathan Dowdall tells trial he did not know there was 'this big Hutch criminal organisation'

Dowdall admitted he was “reckless” when he helped book a room at the Regency Hotel.

EX SINN FÉIN Councillor Jonathan Dowdall, a former co-accused of Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch who has turned State’s witness, has told the Special Criminal Court that he did not know there was “this big Hutch criminal organisation” and never knew the accused’s brother Patsy Hutch was “involved in crime”.

Dowdall today admitted he was “reckless” when he helped book a room at the Regency Hotel for one of the raiders on the night before the murder of Kinahan Cartel member David Byrne.

Under cross-examination for a third day by Hutch’s barrister Brendan Grehan SC, key witness Dowdall told the non-jury court today: “I was reckless in booking the room without asking who that room was for and not asking the proper questions”.

Dowdall (44) was charged on 27 April 2021 with the murder of David Byrne at the Regency Hotel 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.

He 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.

At Dowdall’s sentencing hearing in October, his barrister said that Dowdall was not aware of the purpose or the significance for which the room in the Regency was to be used and that Jonathan had not used the hotel room.

The prosecution case is that the late dissident republican Kevin Murray used the hotel room 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. Mr Murray died from motor neurone disease in 2017 before he could be brought to trial.

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.

Yesterday, Dowdall claimed that he was “set up” for the murder of Byrne by being connected to a room at the Regency Hotel used by one of the raiders. Dowdall said he did not know who was to stay in the hotel room but that it had been “tied” to him and his family.

Under cross-examination today by Grehan, Dowdall was asked what exactly he had pleaded guilty to doing on 28 September and he replied: “For facilitation of the murder of David Byrne.”

Asked if he accepted that he did this, Dowdall said he accepted he had a part in unknowingly booking the hotel room and that this was stated in court when he pleaded guilty.

When the barrister put it to him that he had done “nothing wrong so”, Dowdall replied: “No, I didn’t say I didn’t do anything wrong. I had a hand in booking the room I didn’t know about, I had responsibility for booking the room for someone not knowing the circumstances.”

The State’s witness accepted he was guilty of facilitation but said that he did not know the room was going to be used “as part of the murder”.

He agreed that he did not know anything about what would happen at the Regency hotel, that he did not know the room was “going to be used as a part of the murder” and he thought his involvement in booking the room for Patsy Hutch was for “a totally innocent purpose”.

“I’m wondering what it is you admitted to doing if that is your position?” asked Grehan. “I’m admitting to booking a room,” he replied.

“That’s not a crime,” suggested counsel. “But the room was used as part of a crime so I’m responsible for booking the room,” he said.

“But if you know nothing about what the room was to be used for you are not guilty of any crime, one is only guilty of something if you have guilty knowledge of what the purpose is and you are at pains to tell us you didn’t know what the purpose was?” asked Grehan.

Dowdall repeated: “I had a hand in booking the room but I didn’t know what it was going to be used for. I am guilty for booking the room and am responsible for that. I accept I shouldn’t have booked a room without knowing the circumstances of the booking.”

Both Jonathan and his father 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.

Asked if he thought the evidence was “soft-pedalled” at his sentence hearing, Dowdall said he didn’t.

“Your position is that you had no knowledge whatsoever about that room and you had no involvement in the booking,” asked Mr Grehan. “No I had no knowledge,” he replied.

Counsel asked the witness why he pleaded guilty to an offence with those ingredients and put it to him that he must have had knowledge or was reckless. “I was reckless in booking the room without asking who that room was for and not asking the proper questions,” he said.

Asked how he could have known it was any different from all the other times he had done things for Patsy Hutch, Dowdall said he didn’t ask the questions and had a hand in recklessly booking the room.

“But it wasn’t even you who booked it,” said Mr Grehan. Dowdall said he had driven his father to book the room.

The trial has heard that Jonathan Dowdall drove his father to the Regency hotel on the evening before the attack on February 4 and remained there until Patrick Dowdall paid for the room and obtained the room’s key cards from reception. Around this time a phone associated with Jonathan Dowdall used a mast located at the hotel.

Asked if he had booked it with knowledge of a criminal organisation, Dowdall said he did not know originally that there was “this big Hutch criminal organisation” but he did know after. He said he never knew that Patsy Hutch was involved in crime.

“I was with my father when he was asked to book the room, drove my father to book the room and was there when father gave key cards to Gerard for the room,” he added.

“The whole thing was reckless, I should have asked why the room was being booked and they the questions I should have asked but didn’t. It was a mistake on my part that I didn’t ask the questions,” he continued.

He added: “I would never do it again. I should have questioned the named person staying in the room and by not doing that was reckless. The room was used by a person involved in the Regency attack”.

In summary, Dowdall said his “bottom position” was that he did not know the room was going to be used for any unlawful purpose and that he had pleaded guilty to the offence he was ultimately charged with by the DPP and had done that because he was reckless.

He agreed that his father-in-law’s credit card had initially been used to hold the room.

Grehan put it to him that rather than leave it at that, he had driven his father home to get his passport and then they went to the hotel to pay cash for the room.

“If the room was booked, why was there a need for your father to go to the hotel,” asked Grehan. “That’s what I was asked,” he replied.

Counsel put it to the witness that the man who stayed in the room could have come in and collected the key cards at reception. “That boils back to being reckless,” he said.

Dowdall said there was nothing “sinister” about him not driving his Land Cruiser into the car park that night when he dropped his father at the hotel.

The witness told Mr Grehan that he was not aware his father had given a phone number with a digit missing when booking the room, which Grehan described as “effectively useless”. Dowdall replied: “He is 60 something years of age, I can’t answer questions for my father”.

He also said he was not aware that his father had provided “an incorrect address” when he booked the room.

“You had a totally innocent hand in booking the room as you didn’t know anything would happen,” asked Grehan. Dowdall repeated he was reckless in booking the room

Earlier this week, Dowdall testified that Gerard Hutch said that he and another man had shot Byrne at the Regency Hotel. He told prosecution counsel Sean Gillane SC in his direct evidence that the accused said he “wasn’t happy about shooting the young lad David Byrne and David Byrne being killed”. Asked by Mr Gillane if Mr Hutch had said who had shot Mr Byrne at the Regency Hotel in 2016, Dowdall replied: “He said it was him and ‘Mago’ Gately”.

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

Dowdall has previous convictions for false imprisonment, threatening to kill and causing serious harm from January 2015.

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.

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.

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.