Snapper was ‘in fear of life’ when two armed men dressed in Garda ERU uniforms stormed out of hotel, court hears
- Special Criminal Court
- 15:48, 19 Oct 2022
- Updated: 16:02, 19 Oct 2022
A FORMER Irish Independent photographer said he was “in fear of his life” when two armed men dressed in Garda Emergency Response Unit uniforms stormed out of the Regency Hotel after the shooting dead of Kinahan gang member David Byrne.
Colin O’Riordan told the trial of Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch that he was standing beside the entrance of the hotel when the men entered disguised in tactical gear, wearing balaclavas, and armed with AK47s.
He told prosecutor Sean Gillane SC: “Two individuals dressed as ERU gardai, paramilitary uniforms, balaclavas, all the paraphernalia of ERU gardai, went up the steps.
“They had the advantage of complete and utter surprise, one thought I had at the time was that no Garda unit uses AK47s. I knew they were bogus.
“I took some photos on an iPhone and when I looked at them later the were wearing trainers. No gardai wear trainers.
“I heard a gunshot behind me and to my right and I moved to see what it was. I then saw another weapon or the front of the barrel between the space of two vans.
“There was a man walking nearby and the man with the weapon shouted at him to ‘get the f*** out of here’. He dropped his shopping and ran into bushes. I didn’t see him again.
“I then heard gunshots coming from the foyer. The third individual behind the van didn’t know I was there and I didn’t want to spook him in case he might shoot me.
“I saw one individual standing on the reception desk and pointing a gun down at another person. There were words being said between. He then jumped back down to the foyer area. I didn’t see him use the gun.
“I then heard more shots. There was 12 or more. I heard screams and shouts and the two individuals exited the door.
“They were about three or four feet from me when they came out. I was in fear of my life so tried to make myself as unthreatening.
“I put my hands up and said ‘Garda, I don’t know where I should be’. I stepped back and they went past me. They were shorter than me only about 5-8-5-10 in height. They got into a silver Ford Transit.
“As they approached I saw one of other individual dressed as a woman coming from the other direction. He had a pistol of some sort in his hand and had long hair but it was a wig as far as I was concerned..
“The man in the wig said: ‘He wasn’t there, I couldn’t find him.’ Another person said: ’Let’s get the f*** out of here’. The all had Dublin accents.”
Mr O’Riordan said earlier he had met reporter Robin Schiller inside the room where the boxing weigh-in was taken place and he said he saw ‘Daniel Kinahan’ there but he walked outside when he couldn’t see him and wasn’t sure what he looked like.
Hutch, 59, last of the Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin 3, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Kinahan cartel thug David Byrne, 33, at the Regency Hotel on February 5, 2016.
His co-accused Paul Murphy, 59, of Cherry Avenue, Swords, Co Dublin and Jason Bonney, 50, of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, Dublin 13 have pleaded not guilty to participating in or contributing to the facilitation of Byrne’s murder by providing motor vehicles for a criminal gang on February 5, 2016.
Former Sunday World photographer Ernie Leslie said he was also attending the boxing weigh-in with reporter Alan Sherry.
The event involved the MGM Marbella gym, which they knew was connected to the “Kinahan Organised Crime Gang”.
He was outside in his car when “I saw someone I thought I recognised”.
He added: “There was a loud bang which we thought was a gunshot but didn’t think it was because of the time of day.
“Then we saw people running and screaming so thought it must have been. I drove up towards the hotel and heard more gunfire.
“I noticed a silver van parked on our left and as I approached it a hand came out window and it was holding what appeared to be a machine gun or a long-barrelled weapon.
“I grabbed my camera to take a picture and noticed somebody running towards me. I took seven or eight frames.
“A man attracted my attention, he was wearing a flat cap. The gun sticking out of the van swung around and was pointing at us. I reversed and went up the road and I pulled into an estate.”
‘ENTERED VERY AGGRESSIVELY’
James McGettigan, whose father Jim owns the Regency, said he was in the bar area at about 2.30pm when “two or three” masked gardai entered.
He added: “I thought something must have happened locally and they were looking for somebody but they entered very aggressively. They were dressed like Emergency Response Officers and had guns.
“They said they were looking for the boxers and asked everyone to lie down.
“I stood in front of one of them. He was completely covered up and didn’t give the impression he was a garda. He looked quite young, early 20s and he was wearing a ski mask.
“He was quite aggressive and not acting like a garda. After about 40 seconds he disappeared and I don’t know where he went. There was a lot of screaming and I heard gunshots.
“I ran into room, locked the door and rang 999. I got through on the third occasion.”
‘RECOGNISED THE DECEASED’
Detective Garda Pat Fagan told the court that he was summoned to attend an incident at the Regency Hotel and when arrived he met with State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis.
He said he entered a forensic tent, and added: “I recognised the deceased David Byrne and identified his remains for Dr Curtis.”
Sergeant Ronan McMorrow said at 2.35pm on February he received a call from command about a shooting at the Regency Hotel and he observed emergency services and a large crowd at the Centra shop beside the hotel.
He said: “My attention was drawn to one male being. I knew him to be man named Sean McGovern, he had a wound to his abdomen.
“I saw another man I know Greg McGovern and I approached him to ascertain details about what had happened. Greg McGovern told me to f*** off.”
The trial continues before Ms Justice Tara Burns, Ms Justice Sarah Berkeley and Ms Justice Grainne Malone before the Special Criminal Court.