The Monks Walks away, a Free Man, Dowdall, the Liar, many Gardai, feel Sick tonight, especially, a certain Walter Mitty, Journalist?

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‘Possibility’ Patsy Hutch planned Regency hit as Gerry ‘The Monk’ found not guilty

Ms Justice Tara Burns, presiding, said while the court was satisfied that members of the Hutch family were responsible for the Regency attack, it was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Gerard Hutch was guilty of murder.

Gerry Hutch leaving court on Monday. Pic: Mark Condren
Gerry Hutch leaving court on Monday. Pic: Mark Condren

Andrew PhelanSunday World

Today at 18:39

Gerard “The Monk” Hutch has walked free from court after being acquitted of the gangland gun murder of David Byrne at Dublin’s Regency Hotel.

Mr Hutch (60) was cleared today by the non-jury Special Criminal Court of killing Mr Byrne in the notorious attack at a boxing weigh-in seven years ago.

The three-judge court delivered its verdict this afternoon after a 13-week trial that concluded last January.

When the verdict was read out, Mr Hutch who was listening on headphones for the hard of hearing, leaned forward in the dock but gave no reaction. Less than an hour later, he walked out the front door of the Criminal Courts of Justice and down the steps, before getting into a taxi around the corner of the building and being driven off.

In the judgment, Ms Justice Tara Burns, presiding, said while the court was satisfied that members of the Hutch family were responsible for the Regency attack, it was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Gerard Hutch was guilty of murder.

She said the prosecution had made the case that he was one of the two “shooters” who killed Mr Byrne but the evidence did not show Mr Hutch’s “actual presence and participation.”

Meanwhile, two other men were found guilty of facilitating the murder by providing and driving getaway cars for the attack team. Jason Bonney (52) and Paul Murphy (61), who had denied the charges, were convicted today. Their sentencing was adjourned to May 8.

Mr Hutch, of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin, had pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Byrne on February 5, 2016. His co-accused had denied facilitation charges. Members of David Byrne’s family, including his mother Sadie, sat in the Special Criminal Court as the judgment was read out over several hours today.

Mr Byrne, a Kinahan gang member and father-of-two was killed when five armed raiders, three disguised as ERU gardai with assault rifles, stormed the hotel and opened fire.

Ms Justice Burns said the Regency attack was “a meticulously planned, high-velocity assassination event” which left one man dead and two injured.

Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch (left) outside the Special Criminal Court, Dublin, after he was found not guilty of the murder of David Byrne at a hotel in Dublin in 2016 (Sam Boal/PA)
Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch (left) outside the Special Criminal Court, Dublin, after he was found not guilty of the murder of David Byrne at a hotel in Dublin in 2016 (Sam Boal/PA) — © Sam Boa

It was an “atrocity” that “sparked mayhem on the streets of Dublin resulting in a series of callous murders,” she added.

Some 140 witnesses gave evidence in the course of the 52-day trial, which also heard hours of surveillance audio and saw hundreds of CCTV clips.

Former Sinn Fein councillor Jonathan Dowdall, who was jailed last year for his role in facilitating the murder was a key prosecution witness against Mr Hutch.

The court heard Dowdall had helped his father Patrick to book a room in the hotel the night before the attack. The room was used by one of the raiders, paramilitary linked gunman Kevin “Flat Cap” Murray, since deceased.

Two weeks after the attack, on February 20, Dowdall was under surveillance when he drove Hutch to Donegal to meet an IRA man, Shane Rowan.

Then, on March 7, 2016, he took Hutch to Northern Ireland for meetings with republican contacts. In their bugged conversations that day, they were heard discussing getting northern republicans to mediate in the escalating feud with the Kinahans.

They spoke about “three yokes”- the AK-47s used in the Regency attack – and a plan to hand them over to republicans as a “present.”

Two days later, on March 9, Shane Rowan travelled to Dublin where he was seen meeting Mr Hutch’s brother Patsy. Rowan was intercepted as he drove back north near Slane, Co Meath. The three assault rifles from the Regency attack were in the back of his car.

Dowdall was initially also charged with murder but while awaiting trial, he instead pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of facilitation and turned state’s witness against Mr Hutch.

He alleged that the night before the attack, Gerard Hutch turned up to collect the keys to the room at the hotel.

He also claimed that they met in a park days after the Regency and Mr Hutch confessed to being one of the gunmen who shot David Byrne.

Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch outside the Special Criminal Court, Dublin, after he was found not guilty of the murder of David Byrne at a hotel in Dublin in 2016.(Sam Boal/PA)
Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch outside the Special Criminal Court, Dublin, after he was found not guilty of the murder of David Byrne at a hotel in Dublin in 2016.(Sam Boal/PA) — © Sam Boal

Ms Justice Burns said the prosecution’s case therefore was that Mr Hutch was “one of the two shooters” who shot David Byrne in the Regency. His alleged presence as an “actual shooter” was based on the evidence of Jonathan Dowdall.

Dowdall’s evidence as an accomplice had to be treated with caution, the judge said.

“It cannot be said that Jonathan Dowdall found God or decided to do what was right,” Ms Justice Burns said.

He was acting out of self-interest when he came forward and “obtained significant benefit” from providing a statement for the gardai. As a result he now had “a chance at a life” instead of a potential life sentence for murder.

Of his previous character, she referred to Dowdall’s separate conviction for torturing a man in his garage in a “truly appalling, shocking and brutal assault punctuated by menacing threats.” He had been a Sinn Fein councillor and was “expected to adhere to certain standards.”

Dowdall had called Joe Duffy’s Liveline radio show to deny bad character. When questioned by gardai, he had lied and later said he was too terrified to tell the truth but he had not availed of the option to stay silent.

The manner in which he told “convincing lies” in these interviews was “extremely concerning,” she said.

He was “unrecognisable” on the audio tapes which portrayed him as a “ruthless, base, callous” criminal involved in making bombs and suggesting assassinations, the judge continued.

The real question was “who is the court actually dealing with?”

“A significant question mark hangs over Jonathan Dowdall’s character and reliability,” she said. In light of the pattern of lies, she said, the court must approach what he said about Mr Hutch with “scepticism and extreme care.”

Rather than being forthright in his evidence, he was reluctant to fill in surrounding details about his own involvement in the Regency and IRA connections.

He was extremely reluctant to acknowledge his friendship with Pearse McAuley, an “infamous, dangerous terrorist.”

Jonathan Dowdall
Jonathan Dowdall

An account of visiting McAuley two or three times in prison was a “barefaced lie” to hide this when records showed around 14 visits.

As to the key card for the Regency room she said “the reality is the card was handed over to someone in the Hutch clan” at some location and was passed to Kevin Murray.

She said it was unusual that Dowdall was “nonplussed” to find out about the Regency when “one would have expected extreme panic” on his part.

On the park “confession”, Dowdall had said it happened after the Sunday World publication of a photo of the Regency raiders in the flat cap and wig.

He had referred to Patrick Hutch Jr allegedly being recognisable as the man in drag but this was not possible as the picture had been pixellated.

Dowdall had not been sure whether the meeting happened on February 7 or 8, 2016.

Ms Justice Burns said this should have made a “searing impression” on Dowdall’s memory, especially given his involvement in booking the room. The court was of the view that the day would be “etched on one’s memory”, with Gerard Hutch’s brother Eddie shot dead on February 8 and a “string of murders” now “in the offing.”

Great care had to be taken with Dowdall’s evidence, she said. The court was “not prepared to act on his statement alone,” and it would require corroborative evidence on his allegations.

As well as his testimony, the prosecution relied on recordings of audio surveillance on Dowdall’s jeep when he drove Mr Hutch north for a meeting with dissident republicans on March 7, 2016.

The prosecution maintained that their conversations showed an “admission” by Hutch to being at the Regency and his “tacit acceptance” to having been centrally involved in the attack.

The judge said the court was satisfied that references on the audio tapes by Mr Hutch to three “yokes” were the guns used in the Regency, including the two used to murder David Byrne, and that arrangements were being made to transfer them. Gerard Hutch had “control over and was in possession of these guns at this time,” Ms Burns said.

“The court is satisfied that members of the Hutch family were responsible for the attack at the Regency and the murder of David Byrne,” she continued.

Reasons for this conclusion included Gerard Hutch’s possession of the AK47s by March 7 at least, the involvement of Patsy Hutch in the handover of the guns to IRA man Shane Rowan, the presence of getaway cars at the “centre of operations” at Buckingham Village on the day of the attack, and the storage of the guns there afterwards as referenced in the audio.

The “inevitable conclusion” was that the Hutch family “orchestrated and organised” the “meticulously planned attack.”

“However that is not the case Gerard Hutch is here to meet,” she said.

He was there to meet the case that he was actually present at the Regency and actually shot David Byrne, she said.

While the court found he had control of the guns by March 7, there was evidence on the audio that he was earlier having difficulty getting them out of Buckingham Village.

The audio “does not contain any direct admission by Gerard Hutch that he was actually present at the Regency” or that he was a shooter, the judge continued.

In fact, Ms Justice Burns said, it suggested the opposite as in a conversation when Mr Hutch tells Dowdall that the six people involved “don’t know who the six people are.”

“This is a very odd comment for Gerard Hutch to make” to someone he was supposed to have confessed the murder to, the judge continued.

It was equally odd that Dowdall did not say anything about the “confession” at this point, having allegedly been told something so serious and having been made “his confidante” and that he did not seek to clarify what Mr Hutch said.

It was a “very strange interchange” to have if Mr Hutch had confessed to murder. It also seemed unusual on the audio that Mr Hutch does not know David Byrne’s correct name, “if he had killed him.” He also comments on the calmness of the hit team in the third person.

This was all aside from the fact that the CCTV showed a “high velocity event” with the shooters running at a fast pace and showing “agility”. Mr Hutch as a man in his mid-50s did not fit that description, she said.

Elsewhere on the tape the words “you” and “yous” are used by Dowdall in an interchangeable manner that were asserted to refer to Mr Hutch but were equally consistent with referring to the family generally.

Reading from the tapes, she referenced a section when Dowdall asked Mr Hutch “And do you know what the best move you did was? I know it’s a small thing. I don’t know if you thought of it Gerard, at the time, I certainly didn’t, but the best thing that happened was the particular yokes that was used. That in itself made some f**kin’ statement.”

“A massive statement,” Mr Hutch agrees.

The prosecution asserted this was a “tacit acceptance” by Mr Hutch of his central involvement in the Regency attack.

Elsewhere on the tape, Dowdall says: “We never admitted that was anything to do with yous (sic) at the Regency but obviously we did by giving them the f**king yokes,” to which Mr Hutch replies: “Yeah, he knows, yeah.”

According to the prosecution, this was a “clear admission” by Mr Hutch to being at the Regency.

Ms Justice Burns said the tapes did not establish actual presence and participation by Mr Hutch.

The audio did not “inevitably give rise to the inference that he was present” at the Regency and at most it gave rise to a reasonable inference that he “gave the go-ahead.”

“One wonders what the case was intended to be before the introduction of Jonathan Dowdall as a witness,” Ms Justice Burns said.

“In fact, a reasonable possibility arises on the evidence that the Regency was planned by Patsy Hutch and that Gerard Hutch stepped in, as head of the family, to attempt to sort out the aftermath of the Regency, particularly as his own life was at risk,” the judge said.

The audio did not provide independent evidence of Dowdall’s allegations against Mr Hutch and the established facts “do not marry together” to support his account.

The court could not rely on Dowdall’s allegations without corroborating evidence and was therefore not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt as to the guilt of Mr Hutch in the murder of David Byrne.

Security was once more stepped up at the Criminal Courts of Justice for today’s verdict hearing.

The court’s public gallery was packed with lawyers, journalists and members of the public for the highly anticipated judgment following the 13-week trial.

Mr Hutch, wearing a dark blazer, open-necked white shirt, tan-coloured trousers and black shoes had sat chatting to his co-accused before the hearing began.

Jason Bonney and Paul Murphy were convicted this morning.

Ms Justice Burns said the court was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Murphy and Bonney each took one of the group of five Regency “hit men” away from GAA grounds near the scene of the murder. She said the court was satisfied they had earlier visited the “centre of operations” for the Regency attack, at Buckingham Village in the north inner city.

Their cases were based on circumstantial evidence, the judge said. The court was satisfied that Bonney’s BMWx5 and Murphy’s Toyota Avensis taxi were the same vehicles that had been seen on CCTV footage relied on by the prosecution.

She said the court accepted that at the time, both Bonney and Murphy were aware of the Hutch Criminal Organisation, which had orchestrated the attack. She said the court was satisfied they had earlier visited the “centre of operations” for the Regency attack, at Buckingham Village in the north inner city. One of the assassination team, Kevin “Flat Cap” Murray was seen in the same area that morning and the court was satisfied Murray left in a Ford Transit van that was used in the attack.

Murphy parked up at the Beachcomber pub in Killester that afternoon before “following” Bonney’s jeep as it passed, with both joining four other cars in a convoy that went to St Vincent’s GAA club grounds in Marino.

The judges were satisfied that six people seen on CCTV running down a lane after the shooting were the “hit team” involved and that Kevin Murray was seen getting into Bonney’s jeep after the shooting.

Mr Murphy had asserted that he was working as a taxi driver on the day and provided gardai with fare receipts.

Ms Justice Burns said some of the taxi receipts “did not tally” with Murphy’s account of his movements, or what was seen on CCTV.

“This raises a significant question as to whether these fare receipts are genuine,” she said.

“The court is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that at the very least the fare receipts are inaccurate” and did not establish that Murphy was working at the times asserted by the defence.

She said a swipe key card for the gates at Buckingham village was found in his taxi. This was missing from a batch found in that location while a card found in a jacket at the home of Gerard Hutch’s brother Patsy Hutch was ”clearly another one.”

The movements of Murphy’s taxi, Bonney’s jeep and the convoy in the same areas was “beyond coincidence” or “mere chance”, the judge said.

Bonney’s defence had asserted that he was a “stranger” to the movements of his taxi south of Newbrook Avenue, Donaghmede on the day. He had said he was working on renovations at the family home there and claimed his father, since-deceased William Bonney had been driving the BMWX5 that afternoon.

An alibi witness, neighbour, Julie McGlynn said she saw Bonney’s father leaving Newbrook Avenue in the BMWX5 at around 11.30am on the day of the Regency murder. She also said she spoke to Jason Bonney outside that address around 15 minutes after the shooting.

Another defence witness Peter Tyrell said he saw Willie Bonney driving the jeep in Artane that afternoon, shortly after the murder.

The court rejected Bonney’s alibi evidence. Ms Justice Burns said both witnesses were to be approached with “scepticism” and found that the court had been “lied to in the most malevolent manner.”

Ms Justice Burns said it was “bizarre” that the alibi evidence had not been put forward earlier.

The court accepted the rebuttal prosecution evidence of Jason Bonney’s brother-in-law Paul Byrne, who said William Bonney had spent the afternoon with him at his home.

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