Regency Hotel murder trial: The full story of how Gerard Hutch walked free

Regency Hotel Murder Trial: The Full Story Of How Gerard Hutch Walked Free
Gerry Hutch leaving court after he was found not guilty of the murder of David Byrne. Photo: Collins
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Alison O'Riordan

The gunman, his make-up unblemished, adjusted his blonde wig.

He was still holding his handgun as he approached the tactical team.


"He wasn't there, I couldn't find him," he said. The target of the notorious Regency Hotel raid – the apex of the feud between the international Kinahan cartel and the Hutch crime gang which made headlines across the world – had escaped.

Moments earlier, a silver Ford transit van had parked up outside the hotel on the northside of the capital. It remained there for seven minutes until a middle-aged man wearing a flat cap and the gunman disguised as a woman – his wig streaked with pink and purple highlights – got out and walked towards the laundry room of the hotel, their progress captured on CCTV footage.

They were both carrying handguns as they ran down a corridor and chased people towards a larger function room. Boxer Gary Sweeney had just stood off the scales on the raised stage of the Regency Suite for a weigh-in and was still wearing his 'Superman' underpants when a number of gunshots were discharged, causing instant mayhem among the 250 onlookers, which included small children.

The then-president of the Boxing Union of Ireland, Mel Christle, said he heard up to eight shots as people dived to the floor whilst others retreated backwards away from the two gunmen, one of whom he thought was wearing a knee-length "dress". Other spectators ran for the exits in a panic, including one of the fighters.


'Clash of the clans'

The boxing event billed as the 'Clash of the Clans' was due to take place the following day at the National Stadium. It had been widely publicised on social media and was a co-promotion between Queensberry Promotions and MGM, a firm which ran a boxing management company and gym in Marbella, Spain.

As the two gunmen ran past Mr Christle he noticed that the man in the wig was carrying a handgun close to his stomach. The boxing official fled to an area outside the hotel where he saw a parent trying to console their child. He could still hear about four or five "very loud gunshots, like small bombs" going off inside the hotel as people ran and screamed.

Mr Christle went to gather his things after the shooting finished and saw that two people who had been shot were being treated by boxing trainers.

A garda cordon outside the Regency Hotel in Dublin after the shooting incident. Photo: PA

On his way out of the hotel, Mr Christle saw the body of David Byrne slumped on the ground against the hotel reception desk. His face had been "blown off".

During the trial, pathologist Dr Michael Curtis gives evidence that Mr Byrne suffered catastrophic injuries from six gunshots fired from a high-velocity weapon to his head, face, stomach, hand and legs.

Staff from the hotel tried to control the situation but Mr Christle observed that there was "general panic" and a general weakness in people from the carnage they had just witnessed.

People outside the hotel were on high alert and Mr Christle observed one of the dead man's acquaintances in a tearful state as he tried to conceal a large knife up his sleeve.


James McGettigan, whose father owned the Regency Hotel, said he was standing in the bar around 2.30pm when two or three "masked gardaí" with guns aggressively rushed through the door towards the bar. One of the masked gardaí told everyone to lie on the ground as they started to look for the boxers. Mr McGettigan could see one of the gunmen was quite young.

Once the raiders disappeared, Mr McGettigan dashed for the residents lounge, locked himself into a room and called gardaí.

Newspaper photographers covering the weigh-in were caught up in the chaotic event and managed to take photos of some of the raiders.

Colin O'Riordan was there to photograph the weigh-in for Independent News & Media when his colleague, reporter Robin Schiller, spotted Daniel Kinahan at the far side of the Regency Suite.


After the newsmen had surveyed the room, they went outside the hotel to the front of the steps where two vans were parked.

'Bogus' disguises

They heard a bang which Mr Schiller recognised as a gunshot and almost immediately three masked gunmen armed with AK-47 assault rifles and disguised as Emergency Response Unit (ERU) gardaí emerged from a silver van and ran inside the hotel's entrance. Mr O'Riordan thought the disguises were "completely bogus".

Immediately Mr O'Riordan heard gunshots from the hotel foyer, which caused people to run in opposite directions. The manner in which the three assailants were dressed caused further confusion, with some believing they were gardaí arriving to investigate the incident.

David Byrne had been running toward the lobby when he was shot with an assault rifle by one of the men in the bogus garda uniforms before being shot again by another assailant. The second shooter jumped the reception counter before “calmly and coldly” firing more rounds into Mr Byrne’s “prone” body.

Mr O'Riordan also saw one of the gunmen dressed as a member of the ERU standing on a desk inside the foyer with a gun pointed down on "a chap" behind the desk. He did not discharge the weapon.

Within seconds, the tactical assailants exited the front door of the hotel. Mr O'Riordan said the assailants briskly walked by him towards the silver van. "I stood back because I was in fear of my life. I tried to make myself as unthreatening as I could. I said to the 'guard': 'I don't know where I should be'," he said.

Flowers, balloons and messages at the outside the Regency Hotel where David Byrne was shot dead. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins

The photographer said at the same time the gunman dressed as a woman approached the van from the opposite direction and could be heard saying: "He wasn't there, I couldn't find him", clearly having searched for a specific person.

Once the gunmen got into the van it drove away towards the Charlemont Estate.

There was a lot of shouting and screaming as people started to emerge from the hotel. "People were cowering down behind the wall of the hotel, fearing they were going to be shot," said Mr O'Riordan.

The photographer was advised by gardaí to leave the area and one or two individuals shouted at him: "Get the f***ing camera out of here".

Sunday World photographer Ernie Leslie was parked outside and saw a hand come out the driver's window of a parked silver van holding a “machine gun of some kind; a long-barrelled weapon".

As Mr Leslie went to photograph it, he saw the middle-aged man wearing a flat cap running and took a series of pictures of him as "it didn't look right". The gun in the van swung around to point at him and he reversed away.

F*** me pink

Detective Garda Paul Darley gave evidence of a one minute and five-second video clip titled "Shocking Dublin weigh-in shooting" which was posted on YouTube and contained content on the aftermath of the attack at the Regency Hotel.

The clip was recorded on a mobile device with a "running commentary" throughout. There was an exchange between three people in the clip, with "three distinct voices".

The clip began in the reception area of the Regency Hotel very shortly after Mr Byrne was shot and showed him "in a prone state" injured on the ground at the reception desk.

A male voice could be heard saying in the clip: "F**k me pink, there's no way they're guards" after gunmen were observed dressed as members of the Emergency Response Unit.

A voice said: "There they are, there they are in the van, they're not cops, they're not cops. Get in out of the f**king way, they're not cops".

One person said: "Jaysus look at that young fella" and another says "Don't go near him" and "they're not guards".

A voice could also be heard saying: "Look, they're trying to get out down there, they drove down there in their van".

While on the steps, the person recording the clip captured a silver transit van exiting a security gate into the Gracepark Manor estate. Det Gda Darley said the clip was removed from YouTube by gardaí after a few days.

The getaway

As the weigh-in commenced, a number of cars were captured on CCTV footage driving from Donnycarney in North Dublin towards St Vincent's GAA club, a short distance to the east of the Regency hotel. The cars could be seen travelling to the GAA grounds and parking up there.

The silver Ford transit van containing the six assailants was abandoned and burnt out at Charlemont Estate. "Cooked ammunition", which was capable of being discharged from AK-47's, was subsequently discovered around the van.

CCTV footage showed the six assailants running down a lane into St Vincent's GAA club nine minutes after the shooting, at 2.40pm. The man in the wig was pulling a large suitcase type bag and the man wearing the flat cap was carrying a bag. The other three had changed out of their tactical uniforms.

The prosecution case was that the late dissident republican Kevin Murray was the man seen wearing the flat cap when Mr Byrne was killed and that he cooperated with the "tactical team" that raided the Regency Hotel. Mr Murray died from motor neurone disease in 2017 before he could be brought to trial.

"Flat cap" got into the front passenger seat of a black BMW X5, which was driven by accused Jason Bonney, as the other raiders made good their escape by using the other parked vehicles.

The six cars, which also included Paul Murphy's light coloured Avensis taxi, were captured leaving the GAA club at 2.42pm and turning onto the Malahide Road.

The aftermath

During the trial, a National Surveillance Unit (NSU) garda testified that just one week after the Regency Hotel shooting, on February 12th, 2016, he saw Gerard Hutch riding a black Honda motorcycle out of the home of former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall.

Other surveillance officers gave evidence of being on duty in the Killygordon area of Donegal on February 20 when they observed Gerard Hutch and Dowdall leaving the home of Shane Rowan, who was a key player in the movement of the assault rifles used in the attack.

Other NSU members testified during the trial that they observed Gerard Hutch get into the front passenger seat of Dowdall's Land Cruiser the following month on March 7th at Kealy's pub in Cloghran on the Swords Road. Mr Hutch had a dark beanie hat pulled down onto his forehead at eye level.

The jeep crossed the Border at the Carrickdale Hotel at 3.12pm and was seen at the Maldron Hotel in Belfast that evening and other locations before crossing back into the Republic at 10.50pm that night at Aughnacloy in Co Monaghan. The jeep returned to Kealy's car park at 00.15 in the early hours of the morning on March 8th, where Mr Hutch got out of the vehicle and into a BMW.

Evidence was also given that Gerard Hutch's older brother, Patsy Hutch Senior, was in the same car as Shane Rowan two days later on March 9th. They both pulled up at "Mattress Mick's" car park in Coolock before 5pm. Rowan went for coffee and pastries in Patsy's Toyota Yaris car whilst Rowan's car was driven to a yard, where three assault rifles were placed in the boot before the car was returned.

The indignant victim

That evening Inspector Padraig Boyce participated in "an intervention" outside Slane in Co Meath, when he stopped a Vauxhall Insignia car driven by Rowan on the side of the road at 7.05pm.

Rowan's vehicle was searched and three assault rifles modelled on the original AK-47, along with ammunition wrapped in a rug and white shirts, were found in the boot of the car. The three assault rifles were later matched to cartridges recovered from the murder scene at the Regency hotel.

Rowan was arrested for membership of the IRA and possession of the assault rifles and ammunition.

In July 2016, Rowan 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.

Jonathan Dowdall

Within the hour, gardaí had "hot-footed" it to Dowdall’s house in Cabra to execute a search warrant on the basis that firearms and explosives on behalf of the IRA were being stored at his home. Nothing in relation to firearms and explosives were recovered at Dowdall’s address during the search, which lasted two days.

But what was found, inside a cupboard in the kitchen, was a USB key showing Dowdall’s “handiwork” from January 2015. It contained footage of Dowdall and his father Patrick waterboarding and torturing a man in Dowdall's garage.

The victim – Alexander Hurley – had been cable-tied to a chair and had his head shaved. He was threatened with being 'chopped up into bits', being fed to Dowdall’s Doberman and being brought to Co Tyrone, where his head would be put on a stick.

No complaint had been made by Mr Hurley to gardaí, but detectives sought him out and discovered he was willing to make a statement.

Dowdall was subsequently jailed for that offence, which was not connected to the Regency attack.

Two days after the find, Dowdall went on Joe Duffy's RTÉ Liveline programme, where he played what Gerard Hutch's defence team described as the "indignant victim", professing outrage that his home had been searched by up to 15 armed gardaí and claiming it was because he was previously a Sinn Féin councillor.

He denied any involvement with criminality and asserted "to the people of Ireland" that he had “no links or connections to criminality or any crime organisations in any shape or form”.

The Special Criminal Court would later find that Dowdall had lied while on the radio and it was a cause for concern that he had given such a "staunch denial of any bad character".

In June 2017, Dowdall was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment after pleading guilty to falsely imprisoning Alexander Hurley and threatening to kill him at Jonathan's family home on January 15th, 2015. His father Patrick Dowdall was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment. Dowdall was later re-sentenced to 7 years and 11 months and Patrick Dowdall to four years' imprisonment after successful appeals.

'I wasn't coming home'

On May 17th, 2016, Dowdall had passed through security at Dublin Airport's Terminal 2 and was about to board a plane to Dubai when he was stopped by gardaí and arrested for the murder of David Byrne.

Dowdall later told counsel in his cross-examination that: "I wasn't coming home, I had set up work in Dubai and I was staying in Dubai".

The father-of-four was interviewed at Clontarf Garda Station, and while detained there two of his daughters came to visit him. "While in that room, Dowdall said 'is there any way out'," retired Garda Michael Mulligan told the trial. Mr Mulligan said he told Dowdall that he was not having "this conversation" with him.

Mr Mulligan said he had a further conversation with Dowdall on the evening of May 20th, 2016, when the accused was visited by his wife and one of her brothers. "As I was exiting the room, he [Dowdall] got up and asked could he talk to me in private. He asked if him and his family could get into the Witness Protection Programme".

Court artist sketch of former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall being cross-examined during the trial. Photo: PA

Mr Mulligan said he told Dowdall "that was above me and for his solicitor and the DPP". The witness said he informed his superiors and that this encounter happened after Dowdall emerged from the doctor's room in the garda station where the visit was taking place.

On October 3rd, 2022 – the day he was due to stand trial for Mr Byrne's murder alongside Mr Hutch – Dowdall pleaded guilty at the Special Criminal Court to the lesser charge of facilitating the shooting.

A nolle prosequi was entered against Dowdall's murder charge, meaning that the State would not be proceeding with the count against the former Dublin city councillor.

Dowdall, along with his father Patrick Dowdall (65), both formerly of the Navan Road, Cabra, Dublin 7, admitted facilitating the murder of Mr Byrne as part of the Hutch-Kinahan feud.

Both men pleaded guilty to participating in or contributing to activity intending to or being reckless as to whether such participation or contribution could facilitate the commission of a serious offence by a criminal organisation or any of its members, to wit the murder of David Byrne, by making a room available at the Regency Hotel, Drumcondra, Dublin 9 for that criminal organisation or its members, within the State on February 4, 2016.

The Hutch Criminal Organisation

The trial of Gerard Hutch marked the first time that evidence was given in an Irish court about the existence of the "Hutch Criminal Organisation", along with its structure and makeup.

Detective Superintendent David Gallagher, of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, told the trial that the "Hutch Criminal Organisation" emanated from "intergenerational familial bonds and close family associations" in Dublin city centre and operated on a patriarchal system of loyalty based on monetary gains.

The senior garda also revealed that the organisation was "very fluid" and its affiliates could work together or operate independently as well as with other criminal organisations.

The officer said that the Hutch Criminal Organisation was "less hierarchical than some" and had been "galvanised" since the emergence of the Hutch/Kinahan feud in 2015.

The evidence could not be taken into account in respect of Gerard Hutch and was relevant only to Murphy and Bonney.

Prior to the evidence being admitted, lawyers for Mr Hutch argued that although it could not be considered by the court as evidence against their client, if it were to go before the court it would be on the public record as "an opinion" for "all time" and would "damage" Mr Hutch.

Defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC, for Mr Hutch, argued that criminal proceedings are not "simply a forum where stuff is put out there" and that "there are always rules against scandalous matters".

Ms Justice Tara Burns told Mr Grehan that his issue was really with the "court of public opinion" and that this was not something that the Special Criminal Court had to concern itself with. "Your concerns are what might be said in the future and might affect his standing in the community; that is something that courts don't necessarily engage in," she said.

In response to a suggestion by the court that the evidence could be heard in private, Mr Grehan said he had taken instructions from his client and his position was that the trial should resemble a trial in an ordinary criminal court. The defence had previously contended that matters shouldn't be "shrouded in secrecy".

'What was lost is now found'

Detective Superintendent William Johnston, who was previously head of the National Surveillance Unit (NSU), told the trial that on February 17th, 2016, he was given approval for a period of two months to deploy a tracking device on Dowdall's Toyota Land Cruiser SUV in relation to the investigation into the murder of Mr Byrne.

The tracking device was fitted to Dowdall's Land Cruiser SUV when he drove Gerard Hutch north for a meeting with republicans two weeks after the murder of Mr Byrne on February 20th.

Det Supt Johnston said authorisation to employ an audio device on Dowdall's SUV was given by the District Court with a view to "monitoring" the conversations of Dowdall and his associates.

He said one of the grounds for seeking authorisation of the audio device was that he had received intelligence that Dowdall had travelled to Derry on January 5th, 2016 to meet local man Martin McLoone of the RIRA.

Intelligence also suggested that Dowdall had brought Hutch to Derry a fortnight later on January 18th, 2016. It was further suggested that Dowdall had travelled to Northern Ireland to meet with the Continuity IRA on February 11th, 2016. "The audio was for the purpose of recording the conversations of the occupants in relation to their activities as members of an organised criminal group," he added.

It was previously confirmed to the Special Criminal Court that Dowdall was not in fact a member of any criminal organisation and had not benefited from the activities of the Hutch crime gang.

The trial originally heard that, "disturbingly", all records from the tracking device placed on Dowdall's vehicle were destroyed by gardaí after Mr Hutch was arrested and charged but before the Regency Hotel murder trial began in October 2022.

Senior counsel Brendan Grehan, for Mr Hutch, said the destruction of these records was a "real problem" and he did not accept the State's assertion that it was done in accordance with the Criminal Justice Surveillance Act 2009.

Members of the Garda Armed Support Unit on duty outside the Special Criminal Court during the trial. Photo: Collins

The former head of the National Surveillance Unit told the trial he did not consult the senior investigating officer on the Regency Hotel murder investigation or the DPP when he destroyed records from the tracking device deployed on Dowdall's vehicle. The data, it was said, was “gone forevermore” with no possibility of recreating the destroyed records.

Former Detective Inspector Ciaran Hoey said he did not believe the records would be used in the prosecution when he ordered their destruction months before the Regency Hotel murder trial began.

Garda Assistant Commissioner Orla McPartlin said she would "absolutely not" have signed off on the destruction of records from the device if she had the "slightest inkling" that the material was required, and instead would have ordered its retention.

In a remarkable moment, on November 21st last the three Special Criminal Court judges were told that gardaí had managed to recover the records it was believed had been destroyed.

Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, told the court that the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau had conducted a "fairly extensive" operation, during which a securely stored desktop computer that had been listed for destruction had been examined.

He added: "In the course of the examination of that device, it appears that a working copy of the material in question was located and is available for examination".

Defence counsel Mr Grehan said it appeared that "what was lost is now found".

The secret tapes

During the trial, the Special Criminal Court heard 10 hours of recordings between Gerard Hutch and Dowdall captured by the garda bug as they travelled north on March 7th, 2016 in Dowdall's Toyota Land Cruiser to meet with republicans in Strabane, Co Tyrone.

The State's case was that Mr Hutch had asked Jonathan Dowdall to arrange a meeting with his provisional republican contacts to mediate or resolve the Hutch-Kinahan feud due to the threats against the accused's family and friends.

The tapes revealed that the pair discussed a huge range of topics including their tastes in popular music, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and the workings of the Kinahan cartel.

Hutch told Dowdall that Daniel Kinahan looked "in a f***in' heap" from photographs he had seen in a newspaper after the Regency Hotel attack and remarked how the "cops are going around like headless chickens" and that "loads of f*** ups have after been made" in the aftermath of the shooting.

Dowdall told Mr Hutch that he [Mr Hutch] is "used to the pressure from the cops through the years". Mr Hutch replied: "I'd be like that if some c*** came running in with an AK-47" and that if Kinahan wasn't in "an awful way, ya'd say he's totally disturbed".

Dowdall was also heard criticising Sinn Féin party leader Mary Lou McDonald in the recording for not attending the funeral of murdered man Edward 'Neddie' Hutch and told his brother, Mr Hutch: "But ya's were good enough to use Gerard for votes, ya's were good enough to use for money".

The conversation roved from the death of Supreme Court judge Adrian Hardiman, whom Mr Hutch deemed a "very good judge", to journalist Paul Williams, whose writing on a purported meeting between Mr Hutch and others in Holland was described as "bollocks".

When the song "Missing" by Everything But the Girl came on the radio, Mr Hutch laughed as he said "get two Es will ya," while Dowdall said, "they were good days them."

Mr Hutch told Dowdall that "these three yokes we're throwin them up to them either way", in what the prosecution said was a reference to giving the three assault rifles used in the Regency Hotel attack to republicans in the North.

Mr Hutch can also be heard saying that he wanted "to throw them up there to them as a present", that he wants "them three yokes outta here" and he had to "push him" to get "them outta the village" in a reference to Buckingham Village.

Dowdall also told Mr Hutch that the accused's "best move" was the "particular yokes used", in what the prosecution alleged was another reference to the three AK-47 assault rifles used by the gunmen to murder Mr Byrne. Dowdall says: "That in itself made some f***in' statement".

Mr Hutch replied: "Ah massive statement". He later said that "anyone with cop on would know immediately that cops don't use them".

During the tapes, Dowdall is recorded as telling Mr Hutch: “I said we never admitted that that was anythin' to do with yous at the Regency, but obviously we did by givin' them the yokes.”

Mr Hutch had replied “Yeah, he knows, yeah”, something the prosecution maintained was an admission by the accused that he was one of the gunmen who engaged in the attack at the Regency.

The accused tells Dowdall that it's "very hard to get involved where the Kinahans are concerned coz it doesn't work, the messenger gets it" and that he was "not gonna show a weak hand and go looking for peace".

Mr Hutch told Dowdall in the recording that the Kinahan Cartel wanted "to be the biggest gang in Europe".

No 'mala fides'

After a challenge by Mr Hutch's defence team, the trial judges ruled that the 10 hours of conversations between Mr Hutch and Dowdall that were captured by the bugging device was admissible evidence, despite the majority of it having been "gathered unlawfully" while Dowdall's Land Cruiser was outside of the State.

Presiding judge Ms Justice Tara Burns said the court found that the National Surveillance Unit (NSU) officers "had no power" to gather evidence in Northern Ireland, that the evidence was "gathered unlawfully" and that the breach that had occurred was "of significance".

Nonetheless, she said the court was satisfied that the relevant NSU officers had acted in good faith, that there was no "mala fides" on their part and that the illegality was unknown at the time. She went on to say that the court was satisfied that the conversations between the two men ought to be admitted into evidence in the "interests of justice".

Quid pro quo

At Dowdall's October 2022 sentence hearing, the Special Criminal Court was told he was being assessed for the Witness Protection Programme.

Dowdall – who previously served as an elected Sinn Féin councillor in the north inner city ward in May 2014 but resigned less than one year later – was jailed by the Special Criminal Court for four years for facilitating the Hutch gang in the murder of Mr Byrne, in what were the first convictions in the long-running investigation into the Regency Hotel shooting. His father Patrick was sentenced to two years' imprisonment.

At Gerard Hutch's trial, his lawyers suggested it was "irrational, illogical and inconceivable" that a decision not to prosecute Dowdall for the Regency Hotel murder wasn't entered as a "quid pro quo" for the ex-Sinn Féin councillor giving a statement to gardaí.

However, a Detective Superintendent said that the decision to accept a plea from Dowdall to the lesser offence of facilitating the murder was made by the DPP in isolation to any potential statement that Dowdall might have made.

Defence lawyers for Mr Hutch suggested the dropping of the murder charge against Dowdall was an "incredibly powerful incentive" for him to give a statement against Mr Hutch, leaving it impossible for their client to obtain a fair trial if Dowdall is permitted to give evidence.

Mr Grehan argued that there was a "total absence" in the case of "any kind of clarity" or explanation as to how the DPP's "change of heart" came about in relation to dropping Dowdall's murder charge. He said it was known that the DPP refused to enter a nolle prosequi against Dowdall on September 2nd, 2022 but within two weeks had "changed her mind" and accepted a plea from Dowdall to facilitating the murder.

"We don't know what happened, the court doesn't know what happened [but] what we know is it did happen," he submitted.

But Dowdall was allowed to give evidence to the trial, despite the status of his Witness Protection Programme application remaining unknown.

In the presence of Dowdall in court, a Detective Superintendent testified that Dowdall's assessment for the Witness Protection Programme was "ongoing" and was "completely independent" from the evidence he gave to the court.

Dowdall on the stand

Jonathan Dowdall was the key witness in the trial of his former friend Gerard Hutch, and he took the stand at the non-jury court for a remarkable eight days.

He told the prosecution that days after the Regency attack, in or around February 8th, 2016, Gerard Hutch confessed to him that he and another man had shot David Byrne at the hotel.

Dowdall said Mr Hutch told him he "wasn't happy about shooting the young lad David Byrne and David Byrne being killed". Asked by the prosecution if Mr Hutch had said who had shot Mr Byrne at the Regency Hotel in 2016, Dowdall replied: "He said it was him and 'Mago' Gately".

In other trials before the Special Criminal Court, gardaí have given evidence that 'Mago' Gately survived two attempts on his life from criminals who believed him to be involved in the Regency Hotel murder.

In his direct evidence, State's witness Dowdall said he agreed to help Mr Hutch by approaching republicans in Northern Ireland to mediate in the dispute and that the reference to "the three yokes" in the covert recordings are "the three guns, the three AK-47s".

Dowdall said Mr Hutch had been “edgy” after the publication of a photo of two of the Regency raiders in the Sunday World and was saying a lot of innocent people were going to be killed. He wanted Dowdall to set up a meeting with the IRA.

Dowdall's second core allegation concerned the key cards for the room booked at the Regency Hotel. Dowdall maintained Patsy Hutch Senior had called his father and asked him to book the room for a friend. He said the arrangement was to bring the keys to Patsy but when he drove his father to the meeting point at Richmond Road, Drumcondra, it was Gerard Hutch who turned up and collected them.

Within a couple of hours those keys had made their way to 'Flat Cap", the trial heard.

Mr Grehan began his cross-examination of Dowdall by putting to him that there were "two big lies" at the heart of his evidence - that Gerard Hutch had collected a key card for the room in the Regency Hotel and had confessed to Dowdall about his direct involvement in the murder of Mr Byrne.

Over the next seven days, Dowdall denied that he had lied in his direct evidence. He said that the meeting took place on either February 7th or February 8th but that he was not "a hundred percent sure which day it was".

He also denied to Mr Grehan that he was a "master manipulator" or an "opportunistic liar", that he was prepared to lie under oath, had a "fairly mixed relationship with the truth" and that he manipulated every situation to his own advantage.

He further denied that he was caught on an audio recording planning "mass murder", discussing getting "people whacked" and planting bombs. He rejected the proposition that he used the promise of bomb timers as "a bargaining tool" to get dissident republicans to mediate in the Hutch/Kinahan feud.

Dowdall also denied that he wanted to "blow up" lifelong criminal Trevor Byrne "while he slept in his bed at night" or that he suggested that the wife of jailed criminal Thomas 'Bomber' Kavanagh should be kidnapped at a dancing event.

The defence told Dowdall that they were challenging the witness's suggestion that Gerard Hutch had "come out of the shadows" on Richmond Road to take the key cards from him and his father on February 4th.

"One hundred per cent it was Gerard Hutch, if it was anyone else I would say. I have no reason to say it was Gerard Hutch. Why would I say I met Gerard Hutch and it wasn't him," said Dowdall.

Dowdall agreed with Mr Grehan in cross-examination that he had claimed he met Gerard Hutch on the day Eddie 'Neddy' Hutch was killed on Monday, February 8th, 2016. However, Dowdall said he wasn't one hundred per cent sure if it was Sunday, February 7th or Monday, February 8th.

The key witness told the court: "What I'm telling is the truth, the truth is the truth. I wasn't involved in David Byrne's murder, he told me he shot the kid and he met me in the park; do what you want, it's up to the court".

Mr Grehan put it to Dowdall that there was no support for either allegation other than his "say so". Dowdall said the cards were handed over and the meeting in the park happened, even if he was "a little bit off on the time".

No clear opportunity

Intelligence analyst Sarah Skedd said that Dowdall's phone records gave no "clear opportunity" for him to have met Gerard Hutch on one of the dates the ex-councillor proposed the accused "confessed" his direct involvement in the murder of Mr Byrne.

However, she said it was possible that "this meeting" in a Dublin park took place on the previous day – Sunday, February 7th, 2016 – as call records for Dowdall's phone show that a cell located on Collins Avenue in Whitehall, "oriented in such a direction as to potentially give coverage to the park", was used at 3.16pm.

However, Dowdall had said the alleged meeting with Mr Hutch had occurred in the morning time.

Referring to Murphy and Bonney, Ms Skedd said that CCTV showed the Avensis taxi parked outside The Beachcomber pub on the Howth Road in Killester at 1.32pm on February 5th before pulling out and turning onto Collins Avenue, followed by the BMW X5 at 1.41pm.

She said the footage then showed six vehicles exiting Donnycarney Church, turning right onto Casino park at 2.02pm and into the vicinity of St Vincent's GAA grounds, before the six-man hit team ran down Charlemont Lane at 2.41pm and made their escape.


Taxi driver Paul Murphy told gardaí in a February 2016 statement that he had purchased the Toyota Avensis vehicle in 2012 from the older brother of Gerard Hutch, Eddie 'Neddie' Hutch, who he had known since he was a "young fella". He said he had paid him €175 per week for a year.

Eddie 'Neddie' Hutch was shot dead at his north-inner city home on February 8th, 2016, in what was believed to be a revenge attack for the Regency Hotel shooting three days earlier.

Murphy said he had taken "small jobs" or fares on the day of the Regency attack and his receipts would show the dates, times, costs and how long the journeys lasted. He said he drove to The Beachcomber Pub on the Howth Road after taking a fare at 1.10pm that day, ate a sandwich and had heard about the shooting at the Regency Hotel on the news at 3pm.

Jason Bonney (left) and Paul Murphy, alongside co-accused Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch (right) during the trial. Photo: PA

However, gardaí knew from their investigation that Murphy had actually moved from outside The Beachcomber Pub at 1.41pm and joined in convoy with a BMW X5 driven by his co-accused Jason Bonney. Moreover, the fare receipts seized from Murphy's taxi during a search did not corroborate with the account he gave regarding his movements.

Murphy also admitted to gardaí that he drove his taxi into Buckingham Village in Dublin's north inner city on the morning of Mr Byrne's murder, an area which the prosecution said "became operative" at 11.20am that morning as vehicles for the raid had assembled there. Gardaí believed the Ford Transit van used by the six assailants had also been stored there.

A swipe card used to operate an electric gate which led into a yard at Buckingham Village was found when gardaí searched Murphy's vehicle. The card was one of four missing from a box and its sequence number was one away from a card recovered at Patsy Hutch Senior's home on Champions Avenue.

In another statement, Murphy told gardaí his taxi could have been "cloned" saying: "The reason I say this is that I recently got two fines for speeding and littering and I never litter. I'm not inclined to speed cause of my job". The defendant said the littering fine was for throwing a cigarette butt out the window but he did not think that was him. Mr Murphy told gardaí that he didn't pay the fines and would go to court.

On May 30th, 2016 Murphy was arrested for the murder of Mr Byrne with a firearm.


Builder Jason Bonney told gardaí in his statement that he was working between an extension on his own house in Portmarnock and a home renovation at Newbrook Avenue, Donaghmede on February 5th, 2016. He said he was going back and forth between the two sites and was using his BMW X5.

However, CCTV footage showed that the BMW X5 was parked up at St Vincent's GAA grounds at 2.05pm that day before it picked up the raider known as 'Flat Cap'.

Garda Keith Cassidy seized Bonney's BMW X5 two weeks after the shooting on February 20 and said it was "spotless and there was a fresh smell coming from inside". The witness said he had opened the car door to see if there was anything inside and it had a "very fresh valet smell; within 24 hours, it was that clean".

Bonney's defence was that on February 5th, he never drove his jeep south of Newbrook Avenue, Donaghmede, [north of the Regency Hotel] but his father did.

An alibi witness told the Special Criminal Court that Bonney was working at a house renovation miles to the north of the hotel around 15 minutes after the attack. Defence witness Julie McGlynn said she saw the BMW X5 jeep being driven away by Mr Bonney's now deceased father earlier that morning.

She denied under cross-examination a claim that she was to be gifted a plot of land at the side of the accused's home. She also denied she was not telling the truth, as the State contended that Bonney's father had never driven his son's jeep that day, and told the court: "I'm telling you it is true, definitely true".

A second defence witness testified that he also saw Bonney's father driving the jeep, telling the court: "I seen the jeep coming very close to me and I looked in the mirror and I said Jesus, that’s Wille Bonney driving that jeep. He came up close to me and I said bloody hell, I wonder what’s going on?”

However, Paul Byrne, who was called as a rebuttal witness by the State, said that he and his wife – Jason Bonney's sister – called to her parent's house at Donaghmede Drive for lunch on February 5th and stayed until after 4pm. Mr Byrne said Willie Bonney did not leave the house at any point and that they heard about the Regency attack on the television or the radio during the afternoon.

While delivering the court's judgment in relation to Bonney, Ms Justice Tara Burns said that the Special Criminal Court had been "lied to in the most malevolent manner" when Bonney's deceased father was "implicated" in the Regency attack.

"That anyone thought this would be accepted by the Special Criminal Court is quite simply amazing," she said.

Prosecution closing speech

The State submitted that Mr Hutch was one of two gunmen disguised in tactical gear who shot Mr Byrne in a "brutal and callous execution" as the victim scrambled on the ground of the Regency Hotel amongst "complete carnage", and should be convicted of murder.

Fiona Murphy SC, prosecuting, says that portions of the secretly recorded audio between Mr Hutch and Dowdall clearly showed the accused was "the man in charge", that he had authority over the AK-47 rifles used in the attack that were offered as a gift and the purpose was to try and get someone to assist in diffusing the very serious situation that had developed.

"It's apparent on a number of occasions that there are admissions to his involvement in the Regency shooting, but what is singularly absent is any denial or push back by Mr Hutch against the implication that he is centrally involved in the Regency," she said.

She said that Mr Hutch was talking about the movement of the weapons at a crucial time in which they ultimately ended up in transit and were seized by gardaí from convicted IRA man Shane Rowan just two days later.

Ms Murphy submitted it was apparent from the audio recording that "a plan is being formed as a way to hand over these three 'yokes'. In the audio recording, Mr Hutch was heard telling Dowdall that "these three yokes we're throwin' them up to them either way", in what the prosecution has said was a reference to giving the three assault rifles used in the Regency Hotel attack to republicans in the north.

Ms Murphy said Mr Hutch's responses to Dowdall in the audio showed at worst a tacit acceptance of Mr Hutch's central involvement in the Regency, but in truth it was almost an expression of pride in the choice of the weapons. What was absent, she said, was a denial of any involvement on his part. She said the defendant both tacitly and openly accepted responsibility for the Regency shooting.

Counsel went on to say that there was no reaction from Mr Hutch [in the audio] to deny what was being alleged he did at the Regency Hotel and it pointed to an acknowledgement that he was part of the team.

Referring to the credibility of Dowdall, Ms Murphy said that Dowdall had a conviction for "a very serious and disgusting offence" and was a man who admitted that he told lies in the past. "It's fair to say those things are not things that would endear him to you, but that doesn't mean you can't believe him," she said.

It was the State's case that the audio set out a number of key matters in the case against Mr Hutch and that central to the audio were the AK-47 rifles that were used in the Regency attack, along with efforts to seek of some sort of mediation.

Ms Murphy said it was clear that "the yokes", which the prosecution say was clearly a reference to the AK-47s, are the gift of Gerard Hutch's to give. "It shows he is in control and that they are his to do with as he wishes. It is significant that he has control over them at a time that is so proximate with the Regency shooting," she said.

Ms Murphy referred to Dowdall's remark that "I said we never admitted to them that was anything to do with yous at the Regency, but obviously we did by giving them the yokes, where Gerard Hutch replies: "Yeah, he knows, yeah." The lawyer said this was "clearly an admission" on the part of Gerard Hutch and there was certainly no question of it being denied that he was one of the people who engaged in the offence at the Regency.

"When all of the evidence is married together, including the admissions from his own mouth, I'd submit to the court that it shows, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he is one of the three men dressed in tactical gear in the Regency on the day of the shooting dead of David Byrne and should be convicted of the offence of murder," she concluded.

"The Hutch gang cannot be equated with Gerard Hutch."

'Admitted liar'

Defence counsel Brendan Grehan attacked the State's key witness in his closing address and set out a litany of reasons why Dowdall couldn't be relied on before the court could even consider that he was a "proven and admitted liar and a perjurer".

He said Dowdall's allegations were unsupported by any other evidence and were only down to his "say so".

Firstly, Mr Grehan said Dowdall's evidence had to be approached with "very great care and caution" as he was "patently a witness of bad character" from his references in the audio recording to bomb making, kidnapping multiple assassinations and his connections with violent dissident Republicans.

Secondly, Mr Grehan said that Dowdall was tainted and not a neutral witness as he was charged with the murder of David Byrne up until the trial was due to start and had decided he would give evidence against Mr Hutch to get his own charge of murdering the Kinahan cartel member dropped.

Thirdly, Mr Grehan said, Dowdall admitted to lying to a previous bench of the Special Criminal Court as he was being sentenced for waterboarding Alexander Hurley. "He is a liar who has been caught out repeatedly lying and he carries on as if nothing has happened," counsel said.

Mr Grehan said the State's witness had repeatedly lied to gardaí when they questioned him about the Regency in 2016 and he lied to Joe Duffy on RTÉ's Liveline when he said he had no involvement in criminality. He described Dowdall in the Liveline interview as "very good, very persuasive; a convincing, confident and practised liar".

Mr Grehan said it was Dowdall's "instinct to lie", that tells all manners of lies – "big lies, little lies if he thinks he can get away with it" – and had lied to this trial about his relationship with former senior republican Pearse McAuley, who was jailed for the manslaughter of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe.

Dowdall claimed he had visited McAuley in prison two or three times, but Mr Grehan produced prison records showing Dowdall visited McAuley 14 times between February 2015 and January 2016.

All that, Mr Grehan said, "must certainly raise huge alarm bells in any court's eyes when it comes to assessing the reliability and credibility of unsupported allegations made against him or indeed anything that he has to say concerning Gerard Hutch".

Brendan Grehan SC, counsel for Gerry Hutch. Photo: Collins

The lawyer told the court that Dowdall is a "master manipulator" who decided he would give evidence against Gerard Hutch to get his own charge of murdering David Byrne dropped.

Mr Grehan said the details of Dowdall's lies had to be "dragged out of him like pulling teeth" over eight days in the witness box.

Ultimately, he said the prosecution case against Gerard Hutch stands or falls on whether the Special Criminal Court can believe the flawed evidence of the "proven and admitted liar and perjurer" Jonathan Dowdall.

"All of these matters should cause the court as triers of fact on this matter to pause and be extremely careful and cautious in not acting on the uncorroborated evidence of Dowdall," he added.

Mr Grehan alluded to the famous quote from the cartoon character Bart Simpson: "I didn't do it, nobody saw me do it, you can't prove anything".

The barrister said this reflected Dowdall’s answers in cross-examination over seven days, in that the witness' first port of call was always to lie, then to justify the lie and then say that nothing happened anyway or it's nonsense. Counsel said this was particularly directed at Dowdall's answers to references in the audio recording to bomb making, mass murder and kidnapping.

Mr Grehan said the only evidence against Mr Hutch, besides Dowdall's "flawed" testimony, was the ten-hour audio recording in which the prosecution alleged that the accused made tacit admissions and there was no "push back" about his alleged role in the shooting at the Regency Hotel.

Mr Grehan said the audio was really little more than a commentary on events in the public domain and there were "no iron clad" admissions that anyone could grab on to. He added: "I challenge anyone to find any unambiguous admission to involvement in the Regency anywhere in the transcript and in fact, there are lots of references to the contrary".

Mr Grehan said while there were lots of references in the recordings that contradicted the prosecution case, and numerous references where a court could conclude that the "Hutch gang" were involved in the Regency attack, he said "the Hutch gang cannot be equated with Gerard Hutch".

Much of what is in the recordings, Mr Grehan said, could amount to Mr Hutch getting involved after the Regency attack "to try to deal with the fallout".

He said the recordings could suggest that Mr Hutch travelled north to speak to republicans "to try to find an alternative to more bloodshed". He said there was talk of "mediation and peace talks" and that his client was "somebody to stand and be guarantor for the extended Hutch family".

Gerry Hutch leaving court after he was found not guilty of the murder of David Byrne. Photo: Collins

Mr Grehan also conceded that there were "arguably things said and discussed" in the recordings that "could suggest serious criminality on the part of Gerard Hutch." But he reminded the court that his client is not charged with conspiracy to commit crimes and the prosecution had "nailed its colours to the mast" by charging Mr Hutch with murder.

He went on to say that the prosecution had suggested the tapes showed that on March 7th, 2016 Mr Hutch had control over the guns used in the Regency attack when he was allegedly bringing them north to gift them to the IRA.

But, Mr Grehan said, this was more than one month after the Regency attack and that the State had the choice of what charges to bring against his client. He added: "News flash, Mr Hutch isn't charged with firearms offences, he is not charged with possession of firearms. The prosecution had a choice of what charges to bring and they chose what charges to bring."

Defence closing for Murphy and Bonney

Senior counsel John Fitzgerald, for Jason Bonney, noted that the case put forward by the DPP to associate his client with a BMW X5 jeep "at all times" and specifically at St Vincent's GAA grounds on February 5th, 2016 was a "light or thin case" and that there were a number of holes in it.

Bernard Condon SC, for Paul Murphy, said the prosecution had failed to prove its case against his client to the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. He said the prosecution had offered a "broad brush stroke of propositions and assertions" that were not supported by the evidence.

Mr Condon said the court was being invited to convict based on "guilt by association" and "guilt by suspicion" rather than proof beyond reasonable doubt. He added: "The blanks in the prosecution case cannot be filled in by supposition or suspicion".


Delivering the judgment of the Special Criminal Court, Ms Justice Tara Burns said that the court had "very serious concerns" about the evidence of Jonathan Dowdall, who had a serious criminal history and who had lied in court under oath, to gardaí during interviews and live over national radio.

She said that videos shown to the court of Dowdall telling lies to gardaí who were investigating the Regency attack following his arrest in 2016 made for "uncomfortable viewing".

"The manner in which Jonathan Dowdall told these convincing lies is extremely concerning for the court," she said.

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The audio surveillance of the conversation between Dowdall and Mr Hutch, the judge said, also portrayed Dowdall as a "base, callous criminal involved in making bombs and making suggestions of assassinating people". She said the court must ask itself "who is the court actually dealing with" and stated that a "significant question mark hangs over Jonathan Dowdall's character and reliability".

The judge said the court had to treat Dowdall as a witness who is also an accomplice. In light of the serious difficulties with his evidence, she said that the court would not be prepared to act on his statement alone without corroborating evidence.

Having listened carefully to the audio tapes, she said the judges did not find evidence to corroborate Dowdall's account. The statements made by Mr Hutch in the recordings did not suggest Gerard Hutch's presence or participation in the attack but were consistent with the Hutch organisation having been "behind the Regency", she said.

The court determined that it could not rely on the evidence of Dowdall alone and therefore she said the three judges were not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of Mr Hutch on the charge of murdering Mr Byrne.

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