The Smug Monk Hutch, was Clueless, the Cops, were Watching, every Move; Gerry is not as Clever, as he Thought – the Untouchable Monk, Sits Quietly, in the Dock?

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Evidence of gardaí watching Gerry Hutch shows constant scrutiny of crime kingpin

29th October 2022

“Mr Hutch, I would know, yes.” 

“I know him through the course of my work.” 

Members of the covert Garda National Surveillance Unit began giving their evidence anonymously to the Special Criminal Court this week, describing their surveillance of Gerry Hutch in the weeks after the events of 5 February 2016.

And even within the short period of time these members gave evidence on Thursday, it is clear their evidence will be crucial to the prosecution’s case.

Gerard ‘the Monk’ Hutch is accused of the murder of David Byrne in the Regency Hotel. On that date, five men stormed the building while a boxing weigh-in was being held. Three of the men were disguised as gardaí in tactical gear, carrying AK-47-style rifles. One of the others was dressed as a woman. Mr Byrne was shot six times, including in the head and face from point-blank range.

The non-jury court has already heard allegations that Mr Hutch told Jonathan Dowdall that he was “part of the team” that carried out this murder. He faces a life sentence if convicted.

The evidence from the NSU members has alleged that Mr Hutch, accompanied by Mr Dowdall, met with the man who was later caught in possession of the three assault rifles used in the Regency. This man was jailed for possession of the guns and membership of the IRA.

The impassive stare that The Monk has adopted throughout the first two weeks of his trial has rarely wavered. It’s stayed the same when listening to evidence, when watching CCTV footage, and when legal counsel for the prosecution and the defence have had their many back-and-forth exchanges.

Picture: Collins Courts© Provided by Irish Examiner

Picture: Collins Courts

It’s even stayed the same when he’s been looking at footage and images allegedly showing him on the way to a meeting with Shane Rowan in Donegal on February 20, 2016. Mr Rowan was arrested on March 9, 2016, after the three AK-style weapons were found in the boot of the Vauxhall Insignia he was driving.

Mr Hutch, with long grey hair and headphones on, has been watching what is alleged is his slightly younger self going northwards with Mr Dowdall. Inscrutable, yet looking intently, he will also regularly put on a pair of reading glasses and jot down notes. He also regularly speaks to his legal team during breaks in proceedings.

Most days, he wears a navy suit jacket with an open collar shirt. On the last day of each week so far, he has ditched these in favour of a light green jumper.

What the prosecution has been seeking to establish so far is that Mr Hutch travelled north on two separate occasions after the Regency shooting accompanied by Jonathan Dowdall. It has been doing this with extensive CCTV evidence and is now doing so with the testimony of gardaí who were surveilling him.

Here’s a brief rundown of key dates post-Regency that have been focused on by the prosecution so far:

  • February 20, 2016 – this is when the prosecution alleges Mr Hutch went to Donegal with Mr Dowdall. The latter drove up in his Toyota Land Cruiser. The court heard they met with Shane Rowan and a third man. It’s alleged Mr Hutch asked Mr Dowdall to arrange a meeting with provisional republicans as the Hutch-Kinahan feud escalated.
  • March 7, 2016 – the court has heard that Mr Hutch and Mr Dowdall made another trip up, this time to a meeting in Strabane and their vehicle was the subject of surveillance.
  • March 9, 2016 – Footage played to the court has shown Mr Rowan down in Dublin, and a number of cars in areas around the Malahide Road Industrial Estate. One of the cars – a Toyota Yaris – was being driven by Patrick Hutch Snr, or Patsy Hutch, the Monk’s brother. Mr Rowan leaves the industrial estate in the Vauxhall Insignia around 6.30pm. He is arrested by gardaí in possession of three guns just over a half an hour later.

The first time – when Mr Hutch met Mr Rowan – a member of the NSU described seeing the pair with another man, nicknamed Bosco, and Mr Rowan “coming out to greet them”. They later leave an address with Mr Dowdall carrying a holdall bag and putting it in the boot of the Land Cruiser.

And there’s more to come.

Prosecuting counsel Sean Gillane SC told the court in his opening statement that Gerard Hutch had asked Jonathan Dowdall to arrange a meeting with provisional republicans to mediate or resolve the Hutch-Kinahan feud because of threats made against Hutch family members and friends.

Mr Gillane also told the court that on the second occasion Mr Dowdall drove Mr Hutch north, their conversation was recorded. Mr Hutch was captured on the recording saying: “It’s hard to get involved where the Kinahans are concerned, ’cause if it doesn’t work, the messenger gets it”. Mr Hutch was also recorded as saying that he was “not going to show a weak hand and go looking for peace,” the court heard.

Picture: Collins Courts© Provided by Irish Examiner

Picture: Collins Courts

Mr Gillane said the Special Criminal Court will also hear that in the course of this conversation “explicit references” were made to “three yokes” and giving them “as a present” to the republicans in the north, which he said referred to the assault rifles used in the Regency Hotel attack.

There was also reference to the weapons having made a “massive statement” and that if the weapons were moved to the north they could be “ballistically traced”. Mr Hutch also said that “one particular republican contact knows it was them at the Regency”.

It’s likely the court will be hearing more about this surveillance in the coming days and weeks.

Ms Justice Tara Burns asked Mr Gillane to clarify on Thursday what date this recording was from, and he said it was from March 7, 2016.

However, under cross-examination, NSU members would not go into the specific methods they may have used when conducting surveillance, such as the cameras used or whether they were in a specific vehicle. On one occasion, defence counsel asked one NSU member if there was a recording device on Mr Dowdall’s Land Cruiser on February 20. The garda said he’d like to claim privilege in relation to that.

It’s also clear that surveillance on a number of individuals was established in the immediate aftermath of the events at the Regency. Defence Counsel Brendan Grehan SC, for Mr Hutch, asked several of these NSU witnesses when it was that they began surveillance in relation to this case.

It is clear evidence from the covert Garda National Surveillance Unit will be crucial to the prosecution’s case. Picture: Collins Courts© Provided by Irish Examiner

It is clear evidence from the covert Garda National Surveillance Unit will be crucial to the prosecution’s case. Picture: Collins Courts

One of the witnesses, referred to as CI, told the court he was “not quite sure when the operation commenced”. When Mr Grehan asked him if it was before the shooting, the garda member responded: “I would suggest it’s after that”.

The court has heard that Patrick Dowdall, the father of former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan, checked into the Regency Hotel on Thursday, February 4, 2016, the night before the shooting. A man identified to the court as the flat cap-wearing individual part of the team who raided the Regency on February 5, stays in that hotel room that evening.

From the evidence of NSU witnesses, it is clear that Jonathan Dowdall was among those being surveilled. One garda member, referred to as AG, described being on duty “in the Navan Road” area on February 28. Mr Dowdall lived on the Navan Road in Dublin 7 at this time.

Mr Dowdall had been due to stand trial for the murder of David Byrne alongside Mr Hutch. But, in advance of the trial, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of facilitating the Hutch gang by making a hotel room available ahead of the murder.

He has been sentenced to four years in jail. The former councillor is currently being assessed for the Witness Protection Programme having agreed to testify against Mr Hutch.

During the week, five of six pages from a witness statement made by Mr Dowdall were leaked online. The documents containing allegations made by Mr Dowdall were shared on messaging apps. While the Special Criminal Court has already heard some of the details contained within this statement, it has not heard all of it.

Picture: Collins Courts© Provided by Irish Examiner

Picture: Collins Courts

It is understood that the sharing of such a document online is seen as concerning by gardaí, but no investigation has yet been launched into the matter. The matter has also not been addressed before the Special Criminal Court.

Two weeks in, it’s likely the trial will run all the way to Christmas, at least. Mr Gillane, however, did tell the court during the week that “good progress” is being made so the chance remains that the trial concludes before the new year.

Due to resume on Tuesday, the court is expected to hear further evidence from garda NSU members. Mr Gillane said he hopes to “go through surveillance witnesses as fully as possible, if not completely” next week.

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