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Sasko Lazarov/
regency trial

Surveillance garda saw Gerry Hutch and Dowdall meet man later caught with AK-47s, court hears

Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch (59) denies the murder of David Byrne at the Regency Hotel in 2016.

A SURVEILLANCE GARDA saw Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch and former Sinn Fein councillor Jonathan Dowdall meeting the man who was later caught with three AK-47 assault rifles used in the murder of Kinahan Cartel member David Byrne at the Regency Hotel, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

The three-judge court was also told today of Gerard Hutch’s brother, Patrick Hutch Senior, in the same car as convicted IRA member Shane Rowan a month after the Regency attack on 9 March 2016. Less than an hour later, Rowan was stopped driving north with the three assault rifles that had been used in the Regency Hotel shooting.

Earlier, Ms Justice Tara Burns, presiding at the non-jury court, ruled that the public should be excluded from the court when 27 National Surveillance Unit (NSU) officers – of whom six are retired – give evidence and that their names, which will be handed in writing into the court, can be withheld from the defence and from the public.

The NSU members will testify under previously assigned initials and the media are prohibited from reporting on the appearances of the witnesses.

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.

The Special Criminal Court has already viewed CCTV footage of what the State says is Gerard Hutch making two separate journeys to Northern Ireland with former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall on 20 February and 7 March 2016.

In his opening address to the three-judge court last week, Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, said Gerard Hutch had asked Dowdall to arrange a meeting with provisional republicans to mediate or resolve the Hutch-Kinahan feud due to the threats against the accused’s family and friends. Dowdall had driven Gerard Hutch to meet the republicans on 20 February 2016, said Gillane.

An NSU member, identified in court as Member L, today gave evidence that he was on duty in the Killygordon area of Donegal on 20 February 2016 – two weeks after the murder at the Regency Hotel – when he observed Shane Rowan exiting a house at Forest Park.

A man reversed a car into a parking space at 4.35pm that day and Dowdall and Gerard Hutch were passengers in the car, he said. Rowan came out of the house to greet them, he said.

Gerard Hutch left the vehicle and went to the passenger side of Dowdall’s Toyota Land Cruiser that was parked nearby. At the same time, the witness said the driver of the car and Dowdall entered Forest Park and “beckoned” at Gerard Hutch.

Member L testified that he observed Dowdall, Gerard Hutch and the other man leave the house at Forest Park and walk in the direction of Dowdall’s Land Cruiser. Dowdall was holding a small black holdall bag with an orange trim which he placed in the boot of his car.

Gerard Hutch then got into the passenger side of the Land Cruiser and had a conversation with the other man. At that stage, Rowan left Forest Park and walked in the direction of the Land Cruiser but stopped and instead entered the house. The other man left the area in a silver Audi. Ten minutes later at 5.20pm, Rowan left Forest Park and got into a Passat and left the area.

Photographs were shown to the court of Dowdall placing a holdall in the rear of his jeep and the Passat is parked up on the right. A photo was also shown of Gerard Hutch leaving Forest Park and walking towards the rear of Dowdall’s Land Cruiser whilst Dowdall puts the bag into his jeep.

Last week, Inspector Padraig Boyce gave evidence that he participated in “an intervention” at Tuiterath, Balrath, Slane, County Meath on 9 March 2016 at 7.05pm.

Shane Rowan, he said, from Forest Park, Killygordan, in County Donegal was driving a grey 09 Donegal registered Vauxhall Insignia car and the vehicle was stopped at the side of the road. The vehicle was searched and three assault rifles modelled on original AK-47′s and ammunition were found in the boot of the car.

In July 2016, Rowan from Forest Park, Killygordan, in County Donegal was jailed for seven and a half years for possession of assault rifles and ammunition. He was also sentenced to a concurrent sentence of four years in prison for IRA membership, backdated to 9 March 2016.

Evidence has also been given that bullet cases found at the Regency Hotel murder scene were fired by the three AK-47 assault rifles.

Under cross-examination, Member L told defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC, for Hutch, that he would normally keep a camera on him and that he knew the accused Hutch through his garda work.

Earlier, one officer by the name of Member CI told Fiona Murphy SC, prosecuting, that on the morning February 20, he observed the grey Toyota Land Cruiser travelling into the village of Killygordan before turning right into a housing estate at Forest Park. He said a maroon Toyota Corolla was travelling in front of the Land Cruiser.

Another NSU member, identified in court as Member NG, gave evidence that he observed the Land Cruiser carrying two males leaving Kealy’s pub on the Swords Road at 2.14pm on 7 March 2016.

The witness said he followed the jeep onto the M1 where it travelled through the toll bridge at Drogheda and he was able to observe Dowdall as the driver and Gerard Hutch as the passenger. He said Gerard Hutch had a dark beanie hat pulled down onto his forehead “on the level of his eyes”. “They went to the toll bridge at Drogheda and then went to the Carrickdale Hotel in Dundalk,” he added.

At 11.46pm that night, Member NG said he observed the Toyota Land Cruiser being driven by Dowdall and it was travelling into the village of Ardee in Co Louth. “Gerard Hutch was still the passenger and he was still wearing the beanie pulled tight over his head,” he said. The jeep then went towards the M1.

The witness said he had also observed a grey Toyota Yaris being driven by a “Mr Paddy Hutch” on 9 March at 4.51pm and that Shane Rowan was travelling in convoy with him. He said he observed them driving on Blunden Drive in Ayrfield in Dublin 13 and onto the Malahide Road before entering the Malahide Industrial Estate.

At 5.03pm, Member AG said he observed “Mr Paddy Hutch” driving the Yaris onto the Malahide Road and that Rowan was the front seat passenger. He observed them on Newtown Road and Greencastle Parade on the Malahide Road Industrial Estate.

Later that day at 6.16pm, the witness said he observed the Yaris being driven by “Patsy Hutch” into the Malahide Retail Park and that Rowan was also in the car.

At 6.23pm, the witness saw “Paddy Hutch” and Rowan drive out of a car park.

Seven minutes later, Rowan was seen driving a Vauxhall and turned left onto Greencastle Road, heading for the traffic lights. “Paddy Hutch came in the Yaris, the Yaris pulled up alongside Rowan’s car. The window of the Yaris was open and I got the impression they had a conversation at the junction,” he said.

Under cross-examination, the witness agreed with Grehan that Rowan was caught transporting the three AK-47′s – which had been linked to cartridges found at the Regency Hotel – 34 minutes after he had the last sighting of him.

Member AG also agreed with counsel that his last sighting of Dowdall’s Land Cruiser was at the Carrickdale Hotel on 7 March.

Jonathan 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 Hutch but pleaded guilty in advance of the trial to a lesser charge of facilitating the Hutch gang by making a hotel room available ahead of the murder.

Jonathan Dowdall has been jailed by the Special Criminal Court for four years for facilitating the Hutch gang in the notorious murder of Kinahan Cartel member David Byrne.

The former Dublin councillor is currently being assessed for the Witness Protection Program after agreeing to testify against former co-accused Gerard Hutch, who is charged with Byrne’s murder.

In the opening speech, Gillane said the court would hear that Gerard Hutch’s former co-accused and now State’s witness Jonathan Dowdall said Gerard Hutch had said that he [Gerry Hutch] had been one of the team that shot Byrne at the Regency.

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 (59), of Cherry Avenue, Swords, Co Dublin and Jason Bonney (50), of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, Dublin 13 have pleaded not (NOT) guilty to participating in or contributing to the murder of David Byrne by providing access to motor vehicles on 5 February 2016.

It is expected that the NSU members will continue giving evidence before Ms Justice Burns, presiding, sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone on Tuesday.

Alison O'Riordan