Jonathan Dowdall felt ‘under threat’ from Hutches, Kinahans and Provisional IRA after giving Gardai Regency information
- Published: 19:56, 5 Dec 2022
- Updated: 19:56, 5 Dec 2022
FORMER Sinn Fein councillor Jonathan Dowdall felt under threat from the Hutchs, the Kinahan Organised Crime Group and the Provisional IRA after agreeing to give the Gardai information about the Regency Hotel murder of David Byrne, the Special Criminal Court has heard.
Detective Sergeant Patrick O’Toole said he met with the 44-year-old and his wife Trisha on May 18 of this year after special arrangements were put in place for him to speak with investigating officers.
The witness told Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch’s murder trial that he phoned the Dowdalls on May 17 about meeting them the following day and spoke with Trisha.
Det Sgt O’Toole said: “She was in fear for the safety of her family and feared Jonathan would be shot dead over this.”
He said he put a plan in place to speak to the couple in secret and chose the new Garda station at Dublin Airport.
The senior officer said he ensured they were kept away from members of the public, that there was a garda sergeant on duty who he “trusted” and chose an interview room in the station that had an exit to the rear of the building.
Asked by Brendan Grehan SC, for Hutch, if he cautioned Mr Dowdall, and Det Sgt O’Toole said: “No, they weren’t suspects. He was entitled to the presumption of innocence.
“It was not an interrogation. It was a conversation to see what Jonathan Dowdall knew and what he was willing to impart to us.
“They were both extremely nervous and in fear. There was a difficulty in calming them down.
“The meeting lasted about three hours. Jonathan was getting tired and he had some medical difficulties.
“He raised concern for him and his family, He felt under threat from the Hutches and from the Kinahans because he had been charged with the murder of David Byrne.“
Mr Grehan then asked him: “What about the Provos?”
Det Sgt O’Toole replied: “Not at that point but later he did.”
He said he suggested he go away and write down everything he wanted to say about the Regency and come back and speak to us when he was ready.
The officer added: “I gave him however long he needed.”
He said Dowdall was in custody serving a sentence and waited until he had been released on bail in April before arranging the meeting because he didn’t want to speak to him in prison for his own safety and also felt it might not be safe to take him out of prison for medical reasons.
The court heard that Dowdall was charged with Byrne’s murder in April, 2021.
Retired Detective Superintendent Paul Scott earlier told the trial that in November 2021, Dowdall’s solicitor Jenny McGeever wrote to them to say he had information in relation to the Regency and set out some conditions, which included him making a statement that was not under caution so that it could not be used against him.
There was various correspondence between the Gardai and McGeever following this first contact, Mr Scott said.
The retired officer added that he was not willing to agree to any conditions but wanted to see what Dowdall had to say and put Det Sgt O’Toole in charge of arranging the meeting.
Dgt Sgt O’Toole said he met the Dowdalls on May 18, July 4, July 12 and the day Dowdall made his formal statement, which was on September 23 of this year.
When he returned to the Garda station at Dublin Airport he had a 42-page document with him and a separate eight page one that Trisha Dowdall had prepared.
Det Sgt O’Toole said Trisha read out both documents, Jonathan initialled every page of the one he had prepared and Trisha initialled her document.
The officer said there was no recording equipment in that garda station but he had it installed when he made his formal statement on September 23.
Mr Grehan asked Det Sgt O’Toole at this point was he aware the DPP wrote to Dowdall’s solicitor on September 16 and outlined the intention to drop the murder charge and he said I was “aware of something going on in the background” but added: “I didn’t know anything about that.”
Asked what motivation he thought Dowdall had for making the statement, the senior garda replied: “He wanted to tell the truth, to set the record straight because he felt he had been used.”
He added that at some point he had been made aware that the DPP was willing to accept a guilty plea to section 72, the facilitating charge.
But he said: “We had a conversation on September 22 over the phone and I outlined to Mr Dowdall that making a statement did not guarantee anything.”
The murder charge wasn’t officially withdrawn until after Dowdall was jailed for four years in October for facilitating the murder of David Byrne.
The officer said he made notes of the meeting on September 23 which included “Patsy Hutch asking Dowdall to speak to people up North about resolving the feud, Patrick (Dowdall) told him Patsy had asked that the room in the Regency was booked because of a liaison with a woman and on the day Eddie (Hutch) was shot Jonathan met Gerry Hutch in a park.”
Det Sgt O’Toole said he made notes of points he found important as an aid for himself.
He added: “Jonathan Dowdall was making a statement that he was going to use in his defence or it was going to be used by the Prosecution.”
Mr Grehan asked the officer what role Dowdall played in the Regency Hotel and he said he drove his father Patrick to the hotel on the night before Byrne’s murder after he had booked a room.
He added: “I believe he did not believe that the room was to be used as part of a murder. He was an innocent party.”
Counsel asked him: “What was he pleading guilty to?”
The officer replied: “He was pleading guilty to what he did, which was got his wife to book a room using her father’s credit card, he drove his father to the hotel.
“He then drove to deliver the keys to the room to Patsy Hutch but on the way he got a phone call to go to Richmond Road where they were met by Gerry Hutch, who his father Patrick handed the keys over to.”
Counsel asked him if the gardai really believed they knew nothing about what was occurring, even though Patrick had booked the room with an incorrect mobile number and incorrect address?
He added: “He gave incorrect details because they were afraid of being linked to the murder.”
The officer agreed that Dowdall felt “compromised” because family members had debts with Patsy Hutch’s family.
He added: “He had borrowed monies but he never felt under duress.”
Det Sgt O’Toole insisted “he was not a member of a criminal organisation. He was compromised because he freely did favours for Patsy Hutch”.
Mr Grehan asked him: “Is that what you’re saying having listened to 10 hours of recorded conversations from March 7?”
The officer replied: “It is.”
He was then asked if Jonathan Dowdall had connections to Northern Republicans and he said: “Yes, Republicans. He believed he had been used in the process.”
He then added: “Prior to the murder he tried to intervene on behalf of Patsy Hutch to prevent any other family members being hurt or killed.
“Post the murder he intervened on behalf of Gerry Hutch.”
Referring to the role the Republicans might play in any mediation, Mr Grehan asked: “Intervene with a big stick?” Det Sgt O’Toole replied: “That was the intention.”
Hutch, 59, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Kinahan cartel thug Byrne at the Regency Hotel on February 5, 2016.
His co-accused Paul Murphy, 61, of Cherry Avenue, Swords, Co Dublin and Jason Bonney, 51, 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.
The trial continues before Ms Justice Tara Burns, Ms Justice Sarah Berkeley and Ms Justice Grainne Malone.