Jonathan Dowdall jailed for four years for role in Regency Hotel murder

ireland
Jonathan Dowdall Jailed For Four Years For Role In Regency Hotel Murder Jonathan Dowdall Jailed For Four Years For Role In Regency Hotel Murder
Jonathan Dowdall (44) and his father, Patrick Dowdall, admitted assisting a criminal gang to commit the murder of Mr Byrne in February 2016.
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Alison O'Riordan

Former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall has been sentenced to four years in prison for facilitating the murder of David Byrne in Dublin.

Jonathan Dowdall (44) and his father, Patrick Dowdall, admitted assisting a criminal gang to commit the murder of Mr Byrne in February 2016.

Patrick Dowdall was jailed for two years for his role in the killing.

The two men sat side by side before the non-jury Special Criminal Court in Dublin on Monday.

An armed officer outside the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin ahead of the sentencing of Jonathan Dowdall for facilitating the murder of David Byrne (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Byrne (34) was killed during a crowded boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel in one of the early attacks of the Hutch-Kinahan gangland feud, which has claimed at least 18 lives.

Jonathan Dowdall said he is willing to testify and give evidence in the trial of Gerry "The Monk" Hutch, who is accused of Mr Byrne’s murder.

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Mr Justice Tony Hunt said he accepts there is an "immediate and lasting" effect of providing assistance to authorities in the murder trial and that it will also put him and his extended family in "significant peril".

The judge said Jonathan Dowdall’s life and the lives of his relatives have been "upended, (and become) more onerous and dangerous" in all possible circumstances.

Tributes to David Byrne at the site of the former Regency Hotel in Dublin, since renamed the Bonnington Hotel (PA)

He told the court that Patrick Dowdall will be caught up in the aftermath of his son’s decision to turn state witness.

The pair will not commence their custodial sentences for another two weeks and will remain under protective custody until then.

Hutch, 59, will stand trial on Tuesday for the murder of Mr Byrne.

Paul Murphy, 60, of Cabra Road, and Jason Bonney, 50, of Drumnigh Wood in Portmarnock, are also due to go on trial.

Witness Protection Programme

Dowdall is currently being assessed for the Witness Protection Programme after agreeing to testify against his friend and former co-accused Mr Hutch.

Jonathan Dowdall and his father Patrick Dowdall, who both facilitated the Hutch gang by making a hotel room available ahead of the murder, won't commence their custodial sentence for two weeks so they can "settle their affairs" and "contact various professional persons".

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Both men will stay in protective custody for the next two weeks before commencing their sentences before they are presented to the Governor of Portlaoise Prison.

Sentencing the 44-year-old at the non-jury court on Monday, presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt noted that the former electrician knew that he was assisting a serious criminal organisation and that he had received and followed instructions to obtain the hotel room at the Regency Hotel.

"He gave a key card to another member of the criminal organisation and made a room available to a leading member. The consequences of the assistance were particularly grave," he added.

Jonathan Dowdall, Mr Justice Hunt said, had also appeared to continue the association with the same criminal organisation on March 7th, 2016.

The three-judge court found that the former Dublin city councillor, with an address at Navan Road, Cabra, Dublin 7, had also journeyed to meet with a man in north county Dublin and travelled with the same man to Northern Ireland.

Referring to a submission by counsel for Jonathan Dowdall that no "injustice" would be done by giving his client a suspended sentence due to exceptional circumstances of the case, Mr Justice Hunt said that "regrettably" the court could not accept this. "The offer of assistance to the prosecution does not justify a wholly suspended sentence," he said.

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The judge said that the "extraordinary additional factor" was Jonathan Dowdall's decision to make a statement to gardaí and give evidence against others. "It is not part of our function to assess the relevance of this," he added.

However, the three-judge court accepted that this decision had put Dowdall and his family "in peril" and that their lives had been "upended".

Mr Justice Hunt, sitting with Judge Martin Nolan and Judge James Faughnan, sentenced Jonathan Dowdall to four years imprisonment.

Co-accused and Jonathan's father Patrick Dowdall (65), of the same address, was sentenced to two years in prison for his role in facilitating the murder of Mr Byrne.

Passing sentence on Patrick Dowdall, Mr Justice Hunt said that the senior man had made no attempt to conceal or disguise his actions. The court accepted that Patrick Dowdall would be "caught up" in the aftermath of his son's decision to turn State witness.

These are the first convictions in the investigation into the Regency Hotel shooting.

Hotel room

A previous sentencing hearing on October 3rd was told that Room 2104 in the Regency Hotel was booked in the name of Patrick Dowdall on February 4th, 2016, one day before Mr Byrne's murder. Patrick Dowdall's mobile phone number was also on the hotel's system, while a credit card connected to a family member of the Dowdalls had been used to secure the booking over the phone.

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Jonathan Dowdall, the court heard, had driven his father to the hotel on the evening before the attack and a phone associated with the 44-year-old had used a mast at the hotel.

When questioned by gardaí Patrick Dowdall admitted booking the room but claimed he had cancelled it.

However, CCTV showed Patrick arriving at the Regency Hotel at 7.20pm on February 4th, paying for the room in cash and receiving two key cards from reception. He then got into the lift, used one of the key cards to enter the hotel room and left the room minutes later.

Patrick Dowdall and Jonathan then went to give the key cards to a known member of the Hutch criminal organisation.

On March 7th 2016, a month after the shooting, Jonathan Dowdall travelled north of Dublin and met the person to whom the room key cards had been given. They drove together from Dublin to Northern Ireland while surveillance gardai recorded their conversation.

A garda van with army escort arrives at the Special Criminal Court this morning. Photo: Collins Courts

The father and son were brought into court on Monday by two plain clothes gardai through the jury entrance rather than the cells or the public entrance. The Dowdall family is now in protective garda custody as there is a "severe risk" to the defendant and members of his family.

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A significant security operation took place at the Criminal Courts of Justice building on Parkgate Street on Monday, where members of the Garda Armed Support Unit and Garda Emergency Response Unit were present in the building.

Sadie Byrne and James 'Jaws' Byrne were in court to hear the sentence imposed on the Dowdalls, who facilitated the murder of their son David during the Hutch Kinahan feud.

Sadie Byrne the mother of the late David Byrne outside the Special Criminal Court at the CCJ in Dublin on Monday. Photo: Collins Courts

Earlier this month at the men's sentence hearing, defence counsel Michael O'Higgins SC, defending Jonathan Dowdall, said his client was being assessed for the Witness Protection Programme (WPP) after giving a statement to gardaí that implicated another or others in the murder of Mr Byrne, which was of benefit to the prosecution.

The three-judge court heard that following Jonathan Dowdall's arrest in April 2021 in relation to the murder of David Byrne, he said he wanted to speak to someone about the Witness Protection Programme and indicated that November that he was willing to make a statement to gardaí about his knowledge of the Regency hotel shooting.

Jonathan Dowdall was interviewed by gardaí and they then set about checking the information supplied by him. A formal statement was not taken from Jonathan until the last week of September this year.

Dowdall gave what was described in court as a "sincere and genuine" statement to gardai and had made himself available as a witness to give evidence in the upcoming trial of Mr Hutch, who is charged with Mr Byrne's murder. That trial is due to start on Tuesday.

Mr O'Higgins said the decision to give a statement to gardai had placed a "very, very heavy burden" on Dowdall and his family, that his client was facing a "pretty grim" future and that he would never again live in Ireland. "In effect it's like taking your life and standing it on its head," he added.

The lawyer also said his client’s agreement to testify had "very dark consequences" for the Dowdalls and that his life was "effectively over". Mr O'Higgins added that his client would be living in "permanent exile" and have to spend his life looking over his shoulder.

Two weeks ago at the men's sentence hearing, Detective Sergeant Patrick O'Toole told the three-judge court that while Dowdall had known the Hutch family since he was 15-years-old and occasionally borrowed money from them, he was not a member of any criminal organisation and had not benefited from the activities of the Hutch crime gang.

The court also heard that on the night of February 4th, a man identified as the now deceased Kevin Murray, who was wearing a flat-cap, was captured exiting a taxi and going straight up to the hotel room. It was clear Murray, who had known paramilitary connections with the IRA, had a key card, the court heard.

The court has heard that "one of the garda views was that Mr Murray was there to attract attention on the basis that if gardai applied resources to the investigation they would be misdirected in a paramilitary direction".

Mr O’Higgins suggested it was also the garda view that the criminals behind the Regency attack asked Jonathan Dowdall to assist in order to lead gardai to believe that republican paramilitaries were behind the attack. - Additional reporting: PA

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