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'If he's not on a plane now, he's a silly man': Gardaí fear return of Hutch/Kinahan violence

Patrick Hutch walked free from court yesterday morning.

Members of the Garda ERU stand by a Garda Checkpoint in Dublin.
Members of the Garda ERU stand by a Garda Checkpoint in Dublin.
Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

GARDAÍ FEAR A return to serious violence following the collapse of the Patrick Hutch murder trial yesterday morning.

Hutch yesterday walked free from the CCJ after charges against him for the murder of David Byrne at the Regency Hotel in Dublin were dropped by the State.

He was accused of the murder of  David Byrne at the Regency Hotel in 2016 – the death which sparked the Kinahan/Hutch feud. Patrick Hutch has pleaded his innocence since his arrest. 

A new significant garda security plan has been put in place around Dublin’s north inner city, where Hutch lives, as well as around areas where other members of the gang live. 

Armed patrols around these areas will continue. It is understood they will comprise a mix of highly visible and undercover officers. 

Management, aware that the trial was liable to collapse, has been busy creating this policing plan in recent weeks. 

Patrick Hutch (26) has pleaded his innocence since his arrest. Yesterday, his counsel, Michael O’Higgins SC, said his client had pleaded not guilty and the case was being “keenly contested”, which remained his client’s position.

Within 10 minutes of the hearing ending, Hutch was on the back of a motorbike being driven by a close associate of the family. 

Multiple security sources familiar with the feud, which has so far taken at least 15 lives, believe that it is only a matter of time before a return to violence in Ireland or Spain. 

One said: “It will definitely escalate [the feud]. If he’s not on a plane out of Ireland now he’s a silly man.”

Another added: “It’s the same old story. It’s another head for the other side to chase now. He’d want to get the head down somewhere safe for a while. There’s only so much gardaí can do for someone in his situation.” 

Gardaí suspect that a price has already been put on Hutch’s head. However, security sources have indicated he is now in the company of a well-known Hutch gang member who has a number of hideouts dotted across the country, including north of the border.

Problems with identification 

The Director of Public Prosecutions entered a nolle prosequi against Hutch yesterday meaning the State will not be proceeding with the charges against Hutch, and he was free to walk from court.

File Photo Regency trial collapses as murder charge against Patrick Hutch dropped. End. The Regency Hotel.

Counsel for the DPP, Sean Gillane SC, said the the State was no longer in a position to lead evidence on a number of matters, “sadly” as a result of the death of the lead investigating garda on the Regency Hotel shooting case, Detective Superintendent Colm Fox.

The highly regarded detective was found dead on the evening of 10 February in his office at Ballymun garda station. His official firearm was recovered at the scene, foul play was not suspected and it was treated as a personal tragedy. 

Judges at the Special Criminal Court had days earlier ruled that key prosecution evidence identifying the accused was admissible. 

The defence had objected to evidence that two detectives, Fergal O’Flaherty and Jonathan Brady, “immediately recognised” Hutch as a man dressed as a woman and holding a gun in a photo that had been taken outside the hotel on the day of the fatal shooting there.

Michael O’Higgins SC, for Hutch, argued that the circumstances in which the detectives identified his client were “sullied and tainted”.

Justice Hunt said that the court was “simply concerned” with the issue of admissibility of the evidence and that matters of weight were “irrelevant”.

He noted that the “nub of the evidential issue” in the case was whether or not the detectives had made their identifications separately.

Previously, Detectives O’Flaherty and Brady told the court that two days after the shooting they went to Ballymun garda station to look at the photo.

The court has heard that Sergeant Patrick O’Toole supervised the process while Garda Michael Ryan displayed the image on a computer in his office.

Ruling on the evidence on 2 February 2018, Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding at the three-judge court, said there was no evidence the detectives were together when they made the identification and that the process was therefore contaminated.

Speaking yesterday, O’Higgins said: “I note his (Gillane’s) observation that the passing of Detective Superintendent Fox has brought about this situation today and I’ve nothing further to add.” 

6991 Regency case_90537610 Sadie Byrne - mother of David Byrne. Source: Leah Farrell via RollingNews.ie

Byrne family reaction

Following the outcome yesterday, members of the Byrne family stood up in court and called the situation “disgraceful” and a “farce”. 

They said there was “no justice in Ireland” and claimed the gardaí could not “solve this case but could solve all the others”. 

They told members of the media sitting in front of them that “you can put that in the paper”. 

One Byrne family member said: “You’re afraid of the Hutches, that what you are”. 

Outside the court, the family then unfurled a banner demanding justice for David Byrne. 

His mother Sadie told RTÉ News: “One day the truth will come out. I won’t be alive for it, but the truth will come out. What can we do? Where can we go? The police don’t want to know. The papers don’t want to know.

“No one wants to listen to me. Nobody.”

She said that she wanted the current feud to end that nobody wants to live in fear. 

She added: “Of course we want it to end. Who wants a feud? Who wants to live like this? Who wants their child riddled? Gone to a sporting event and he doesn’t come home. His life is not in danger from us.”

With reporting by Daniel Hickey and Ruaidhrí Giblin

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Garreth MacNamee and Michelle Hennessy

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