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Regency trial collapses as murder charge against Patrick Hutch dropped

Hutch was accused of the murder of David Byrne at the Regency Hotel in February 2016.

Scene of the shooting
Scene of the shooting
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie

PATRICK HUTCH HAS walked free from the Special Criminal Court after charges against him for the murder of David Byrne at the Regency Hotel in Dublin were dropped by the State.

Hutch (26) of Champions Avenue, Dublin 1, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of David Byrne (34) at the Regency Hotel in Dublin on 5 February 2016.

The three-judge, non-jury Special Criminal Court heard that the shooting took place during a boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel. A man dressed as a woman and another wearing a flat cap, armed with handguns, followed by three people dressed in tactical-style garda uniforms, carrying assault rifles, raided the venue.

It was the State’s case that Hutch was the man dressed as a woman and that, although he did not shoot Byrne, he was part of a “shared intention” to commit the offence.

Hutch had also denied possessing three AK47 assault rifles in connection with the shooting.

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

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.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding in the three-judge court, said Hutch could be “discharged” in light of the State’s application. “Further comment is not necessary,” the judge said.

Members of the Byrne family stood up 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”. 

Moments after being discharged from the court, Hutch left the Criminal Courts of Justice building in Dublin and departed on a motorbike that was waiting outside. 

Counsel for Hutch, Michael O’Higgins SC, said his client had pleaded not guilty and the case was being “keenly contested”, which remained his client’s position.

“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,” O’Higgins said.

Detective Superintendent Colm Fox 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. The trial had been stalled at the time over the disclosure by the prosecution of emails between four gardaí.

Notes written by the late superintendent were handed into the court and read by the three judges.

The court was subsequently told that a report into the death of the Detective Superintendent was being prepared. This report concerned the analysis of electronic data – a mobile phone, two USB devices and a laptop computer.

‘Immediate panic’

Opening the prosecution’s case in January 2018, Sean Gillane SC told the court that on 5 February 2016, the hotel was hosting a weigh-in for a boxing event scheduled for the following day, billed as the ‘Clash of the Clans’.

The event, widely publicised on social media, was a co-promotion between Queensberry Promotions, run by boxing promoter Frank Warren, and MGM, a Marbella-based firm which runs a boxing management company and a boxing gym, the barrister said.

He added that the event was to include boxers associated with the MGM gym, which “enjoyed the patronage of a number of people”, and that the prosecution case is that “a number of these people’s presence might have been anticipated at the event”.

Gillane said the court would hear evidence that as the weigh-in commenced, at 2:20pm, a silver van parked up outside the hotel and some seven minutes or so later, a man wearing a flat cap and a man wearing a wig got out of the van and walked toward the hotel, their progress captured on CCTV.

He said the court would hear evidence from eye-witnesses that boxer Gerry Sweeney was having his weigh-in completed, when there were “gunfire, gunshots and cracking sounds” and that “immediate panic ensued”.

Gillane said that the man with the wig and the man with the flat cap were observed carrying handguns, running down the corridor following or chasing people toward a larger function room, where there were emergency exits.

He said the court would hear evidence that at 2:29pm the same silver van proceeded through the security gate and pulled up in front of the hotel before three individuals dressed as gardaí, in armed tactical style uniforms, got out of the van and went to the hotel’s entrance, carrying assault rifles.

He said the court would hear that a number of shots were immediately discharged from the weapons, which caused “all-round panic with people running in opposite directions”, and that the manner in which the three people were dressed caused further confusion, with some believing they were in fact gardaí, arriving to deal with the incident.

Gillane said the court would hear that the deceased, Byrne, was in a group running toward the main reception when he was shot by one of the men in garda uniform, with an assault rifle, and shot again by another of the men dressed as a guard.

Byrne was injured and made his way to the reception desk, the barrister said.

‘Calmly and coldly’

Gillane said the court would also see footage of a BBC reporter jumping over the reception desk, lying on the ground and taking cover, when one of the men in garda uniform jumped onto the reception desk, pointed the weapon at the reporter, engaged with him for a number of seconds, but did not discharge.

He said the gunman then jumped back over the counter, to where Byrne was lying on the ground, and “calmly and coldly” discharged rounds into the victim.

He said the prosecution case would also establish that the raiders were clearly looking for a specific person and that the man wearing the wig was heard shouting “He’s not fucking here” and “I can’t fucking find him”.

He said the van meanwhile was parked outside, idling, waiting for the alleged gunmen, who all left the hotel and got into the van, which drove away towards Charlemont Estate, where it was burnt out.

Gillane said that the prosecution case is that all six people – the man in the wig, the man in the flat cap, the three men in garda uniforms and the driver of the van – were involved in a “resourced, carefully planned, targeted, murderous attack”.

He added that a “perfected callousness” was displayed when one of the men shot Byrne, who was “prone” on the floor.

There was a “shared intention to commit the offence” by all six individuals, the court heard.

The court also heard that three firearms were found in County Meath on March 9th 2016, and that discharged cartridge cases recovered from the hotel matched the weapons.

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Ruaidhrí Giblin

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