Hutch had monk-like self-control in the post-verdict frenzy, but his composure was tested in court
• 43m ago
GERARD HUTCH WAS the picture of composure after Special Criminal Court Judge Tara Burns pronounced him not guilty for the murder of David Byrne at the Regency Hotel in 2016 – his only reaction was a slight nod.
As a swarm of people surrounded the docks, Hutch took little notice, and reached over to his co-accused James Bonney – who was found guilty alongside Paul Murphy for acting as drivers for the hitmen involved in the murder – to shake his hand.
A pat on the arm followed.
Paul Murphy (61), of Cherry Avenue, Swords, Co Dublin and Jason Bonney (50), of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, Dublin 13, were found guilty of the charges they faced.
As the public filtered out of the room, and the press rushed to set up outside of the court building, Hutch made what looked like polite conversation with the Gardaí stationed in the room.
Chaos ensued after he left the courtroom via the main door. After a few moments of hovering by the elevators as the media circled, Hutch and his team made for the staircase as reporters rushed down alongside him.
Hutch’s team looked harried, but he was stone-faced. They went into the canteen on the second floor and out of the building through a side door – gardaí deterred those who attempted to follow.
When he eventually re-emerged outside of the main entrance to the court complex, a press frenzy chased him up the street. The scene that unfolded was bizarre – as Hutch darted back and forth across the road, looking for a way out, the media spilled onto the road in the way of traffic. Gardaí closed in to manage the situation.
Despite questions being lobbied at him like: “What does it feel to be free Gerry?”, “Any message for Dowdall?”, “What would you like to say to your legal team?”, and one person simply shouting “congrats Gerry!”, the Dublin native had no comment to offer.
Just as it seemed he was penned in by circling media, a taxi pulled up and he was loaded in and whisked away – his getaway was complete.
In the courtroom, however, Hutch was not so calm as the verdict was being read.
Compared to Murphy and Bonney who wore hoodies and at times slumped on the bench, the 60-year-old looked slick in a white shirt and dark blazer.
He listened closely as Judge Burns read the verdict for Murphy first, at times leaning forward on the bench with his chin between his hands.
As the facts of the attack at the Regency on 5 February 2016 were laid out, followed by a summary of Murphy’s involvement, it quickly became clear that things weren’t looking good for former cab driver Murphy.
Gerry Hutch gets into a taxi after leaving court.© Alamy Stock Photo
The first significant blow for the accused came when Judge Burns said that the court was satisfied – beyond reasonable doubt that Buckingham village was the “centre of operations” for the Regency attack.
Hutch listened closely to the ruling, but showed no reaction.
Related video: Gerry Hutch leaves court (Sky News)
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The judge continued on to say that the prosecution successfully demonstrated that the taxi fare receipts that Murphy produced as an alibi for the day of the Regency shootings were “not accurate”, as they did not tally with the movements of his cab as captured on CCTV.
Soon after, the judge ruled conclusively that both Murphy and Bonney were guilty. Hutch – who at the outset of the trial exhibited his usual cool demeanour – was left rubbing his forehead before the courtroom adjourned for lunch.
The crowd of legal professionals, reporters, security personnel and members of the public that spilled out of the courtroom seemed to agree at large that Hutch was right to be worried.
“Well, that’s that,” one person said in a lift on the way out.
But it wasn’t.
Initially expectations of many seemed to be playing out – the judge said that the court was satisfied that the “yokes” referred to in the audio surveillance were the three AK47′s used by the Regency shooters.
The recording came from a listening device inside a vehicle carrying Hutch and Jonatahn Dowdall as they allegedly travelled to Northern Ireland.
The judge further stated that the court was satisfied that at the time of the audio recording Hutch “had control” of the same weapons.
However, when the Judge came to rule on the reliability of accomplice turned witness protection applicant Dowdall, things quickly took another direction.
On the issue of the date and time of his essential meeting with Hutch to hand over the Regency room key card, the court found Dowdall did not give give a clear answer.
On his own involvement with the Hutch gang and the IRA man who the weapons were delivered to, Dowdall failed to be fully transparent.
The judge was clear that Hutch could not be found guilty solely based on the former Sinn Fein councillor’s account because, after all, based on recordings of his cross examination by Gardaí when he imprisoned and assaulted a man, and his subsequent appearance defending his character on radio with Joe Duffy, it was clear that Dowdall was capable lying.
The Judge said there was a serious question mark over Dowdall’s motivations for testifying against Hutch in the first place.
“It cannot be said that Jonathan Dowdall found God, he was acting out of his own self interest,” the judge said.
So it came down to the audio recordings of that fateful trip North obtained by Gardaí to corroborate Dowdall’s allegations.
The mother of murder victim David Byrne Sadie Byrne arriving for Gerry The Monk Hutch court case at the Criminal Courts to hear the verdict in his case.© Sasko Lazarov
The court found that Hutch’s utterances “he knows, yeah”, and “I know what you mean” in response to Dowdall asking if Hutch had told the IRA man “that that was you at the Regency”did not represent a tacit admission by Hutch that he was at the Regency.
The courtroom grew tense as the Judge went on to state that the audio does not even establish that Hutch was “in the country” at the time of the attack.
Judge Burns was clear – the segments of audio did not give rise to the inference that Hutch was present at the Regency.
At most, she said, the audio suggests that Hutch “gave the go ahead” for the attack, but, the judge noted, the case against Hutch is “not one of common design… although one wonders what the case was intended to be before the introduction of Jonathan Dowdall as a prosecution witness”.
It was clear to the courtroom then – and no doubt to Hutch in the docks, that he was going to be found not guilty of the charges brought against him.
It was also clear that if alternative charges had been brought against Hutch, the outcome could have been a very different one.
Certainly, that possibility will have been bitterly evident to Byrne’s mother and relatives, who, in a state of upset, attempted to out-wait the press by sitting in the back of the court house, before finally emerging with umbrellas covering their faces, refusing to give any comment.