Court hears 500 gardai viewed a photo of man dressed as woman in aftermath of Regency attack

By Daniel Hickey

Approximately 500 gardai viewed a photo of a man dressed as a woman holding a gun outside the Regency Hotel on the day of a fatal shooting there, with two detectives identifying the man as Patrick Hutch, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

A detective agreed with a defence barrister that no records were kept on whether the remaining 498 gardai - who did not recognize Mr Hutch - knew the accused man or not.

Mr Hutch (25) of Champions Avenue, Dublin 1, is pleading not guilty to the murder of David Byrne (34) at the Regency Hotel in Dublin on February 5th 2016.

He also denies possessing three AK47 assault rifles in connection with the shooting.

It is the prosecution’s case that Mr Hutch was the man dressed as a woman and that he did not shoot Mr Byrne but was part of a "shared intention" to commit the offence.

The shooting took place, the court has heard, during a boxing weigh-in at the hotel, when the man dressed as a woman and another wearing a flat cap, armed with handguns, followed by three people dressed in tactical-style garda uniforms and carrying assault rifles, raided the venue.

The defence is objecting to evidence that two detectives identified Mr Hutch as the man dressed as a woman after they had looked at the picture, which had been taken by a photographer contracted to the Sunday World, who was at the hotel to cover the weigh-in.

Under cross-examination today Detective Inspector David Gallagher told Michael O’Higgins SC that he had been tasked to circulate the photo to garda stations around Dublin.

The court heard that approximately 500 gardai looked at the photos.

Mr O’Higgins said that of the 498 officers who did not recognise the accused it was "never ascertained" whether or not they knew the accused man.

Det Inspector Gallagher said that the gardai would not usually engage in such a process.

The court heard that in some garda stations no records were kept of which gardai had looked at the photos.

Mr O’Higgins said that the information on gardai who viewed the picture and who knew Patrick Hutch but did not recognise him was "very important".

"All I can say is two members recognised him," the detective said.

The court has previously heard that two detectives, Fergal O’Flaherty and Jonathan Brady, went to Ballymun garda station two days after the shooting, looked at the photo, and "immediately recognised" the man dressed as a woman as Patrick Hutch.

The detectives have told the court that they made their identifications separately.

Detective Sergeant Patrick O’Toole was cross-examined on the identification process.

Mr O’Higgins asked him if there had been any discussion about putting safeguards in place prior to the detectives viewing the images.

Det Sgt O’Toole said the safeguards were that he was happy with the room being used, the screen being used, and members going in one at a time.

The sergeant agreed with Mr O’Higgins that his statement contained no information about how the identification was made.

The court has previously heard evidence that Det Gda O’Flaherty looked at the picture first and then left the room before Det Gda Brady viewed the picture and recognized Patrick Hutch.

The late David Byrne

The barrister suggested that the sergeant’s account of the identification was "shambolic, inconsistent and not what happened".

Sgt O’Toole said, "I’m fully sure of the fact the detectives made the correct recognition."

The court also heard evidence from two members of the PSNI.

Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell told Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, that in May 2016 he went to Ballymun garda station and identified the man in the flat cap in the photo as Kevin Murray, with an address in Strabane, County Tyrone.

He said that he later viewed CCTV footage from the Regency Hotel from the evening before the shooting and that Kevin Murray was present in the bar.

The court heard that Mr Murray was arrested on foot of a European Arrest Warrant in December 2016 but that he passed away in August last year.

Under cross-examination, Constable Caroline Hill told Mr O’Higgins that she is an identification officer and she described how members of the PSNI conduct identification of suspects from photos and video.

She said that photos are shown to individuals and that no group showings should be made "so that nobody will influence anyone else".

She said that a viewer must not speak with anyone during the process so that it is an independent viewing.

The hearing continues in front of Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, sitting with Judge Patricia Ryan and Judge Ann Ryan.

 

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