Builder accused of helping Regency murder gang says he knew two top Kinahan lieutenants
Jason Bonney is on trial along with Gerard “The Monk” Hutch and another man, Paul Murphy.
A BUILDER accused of helping the gang who carried out the Regency shooting said his life came under threat after gardai questioned him about the attack.
Jason Bonney (51), who denies involvement in the murder and maintains he was renovating his home at the time, said he had been "through hell and back."
Mr Bonney told officers he was "law abiding" but knew members of the Kinahan gang and could see no reason why the cartel would threaten him.
Evidence of his interviews with gardai after his arrest were being heard at the Special Criminal Court today.
The admissibility of the evidence is being challenged by the defence.
Mr Bonney is on trial along with Gerard “The Monk” Hutch and another man, Paul Murphy.
While Mr Hutch is charged with Mr Byrne's murder, Mr Bonney and Mr Murphy are accused of facilitating the killing by providing the perpetrators with access to vehicles.
Mr Byrne (33), a Kinahan gang member, was shot dead when three assault rifle-wielding masked gunmen, disguised as ERU gardai, stormed the Regency in north Dublin along with an armed man dressed as a woman in a blonde wig, and another in a flat cap.
The February 5, 2016 attack on a boxing weigh-in event happened as a bloody feud raged between the capital's Kinahan and Hutch gangs.
Mr Hutch (59), of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin, Mr Murphy (61) of Cherry Avenue, Swords and Mr Bonney (50) of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, deny the charges against them.
The Regency attack team are alleged to have arrived at and fled the scene in a silver Ford Transit van.
The prosecution is alleging Mr Bonney and Murphy are linked to other “vehicles of interest” in the investigation that were captured on CCTV in north Dublin on the day of the attack.
Detective Sergeant Patrick O’Toole said he went to Jason Bonney's then home at Newbrook Avenue, Donaghmede on May 27, 2016 and spoke to his wife who told him Mr Bonney was upstairs in the bedroom. Det Sgt O’Toole went up and spoke to Mr Bonney and informed him he was arresting him for the murder of David Byrne at the Regency.
He cautioned him and Mr Bonney requested to have a few minutes to organise some wages for his staff. The arrest was at 7.20am and he was brought to Ballymun garda station, arriving at 8.05am.
Det Sgt O’Toole told Sergeant John Collins of the reason for the arrest. He said a BMWX5 jeep allegedly in Mr Bonney’s possession on the date of the murder was registered to Bonney Construction. Enquiries had been carried out, CCTV showed the jeep at numerous locations on February 5 and Mr Bonney was in the jeep on a number of those occasions.
He informed Sgt Collins that Mr Bonney was owner of the jeep on the day. It had been seen at his home and locations such Howth Road and Donaghmede on February 5, he said, as well as at a church on the Malahide Road and St Sylvester’s GAA club.
He showed the sergeant photo stills and told him the jeep was at the GAA club at the time the murder took place.
He said he was satisfied the jeep was part of a convoy of vehicles that went to the GAA club to “take away the people involved in the murder.”
On CCTV, a person got into the jeep with a holdall bag and it was seen on CCTV leaving the club, Det Sgt O’Toole continued.
The stills showed the jeep at various locations on February 5 before and after the murder.
“I was satisfied from the account he had given that there were certain locations and movements of that jeep that Mr Bonney had not accounted for,” Det Sgt O’Toole said.
In cross-examination he told defence barrister John Fitzgerald SC that Mr Bonney had been visible on CCTV coming out of his house and getting into the jeep. He said he did not intentionally mean to imply that Mr Bonney was visible in the jeep at the locations he mentioned.
The court heard Mr Bonney had told gardai in an initial conversation that he had only gone as far as Chadwicks in Coolock, but the jeep was on camera on the Howth Road. This was something they intended questioning him about further.
Detective Sgt Collins said Det Sgt O’Toole’s summary of the reasons for detention stated that it was believed the jeep had been in convoy with other vehicles “involved in the murder” to the GAA club to collect “members of the gang” and that they “made good their escape.”
He said Det Sgt O’Toole told him CCTV showed him “with the jeep.” In cross examination, Det Sgt Collins said he did not recall being told Mr Bonney was seen actually in the jeep at any point.
Mr Fitzgerald said his client was only seen at the jeep at Drumnigh Wood and was not seen at the other locations gardas said he had “failed to account for.” He asked Det Sgt Collins if he was concerned that that information was wrong.
Det Sgt Collins said he expected information given to him would be correct.
Sergeant Ronan McMorrow said Mr Bonney was interviewed at Ballymun garda station on May 27, 2016. In interview, Mr Bonney said since the gardai had spoken to him, his life was under threat and he was “very frightened about it” and “shocked by it.”
He was served with a Garda Information Message and his son had left the country.
“I’ve been through hell and back,” he said.
“I’m an ordinary man... I’m working all my life, I’ve never been on social welfare, I’m a family man,” he said.
The gardai asked if he knew of any reason for the threat to him and his family.
“You are the police, you tell me,” he said.
He said he had taken over the BMW from his father, who had originally bought it. The BMW was registered to his father's now-dormant company.
Jason Bonney had already told gardai he was not at the Regency on the day of the murder. The interviewer asked where he was. He said he was at work at his house in Newbrook Avenue, Donaghmede, which he was renovating while still living at the Portmarnock address.
Asked about specific times, he said he had already given a statement while it was fresh in his mind. He was happy to stand by that and “I don’t want to give another version that would contradict what I said.”
He believed there were five people working at Newbrook Avenue with him on the day. Asked if he was aware of the boxing happening that day, he said he had been involved in boxing and got an invite to the Regency event from Matthew Macklin of MGM gym, but did not go.
He knew Macklin through boxing, he said. He then asked the interview not to ask him anything about his family because he was “in great fear” for them.
He said having the car seized and his home searched was “embarrassing” as “we are law abiding citizens” and he did not even have penalty points.
Mr Bonney had a heart condition and it was “not good for my health either,” he said.
He believed he was being victimised and felt let down by the gardai.
Mr Bonney said he was shocked when the jeep was taken.
He said he did not go to the Regency but did not have to reply to Macklin who was “a good lad.”
He had never been out to Macklin's gym, he said.
Mr Bonney was asked if the gardai had told him why his life was under threat. He said he had been told it was because of the Kinahan cartel.
“Do the Kinahan cartel see you as a threat to them?” the garda asked, to which he replied: “absolutely not.”
Asked if he knew any of them, he said he went to school with Gary Finnegan and had met Ross Browning. Mr Bonney said he had been involved in Trinity boxing club and coached in Corinthians on Bella Street, where members of the Hutch family had also been involved.
Asked if he was willing to help the investigation, he said he was willing to answer any questions he felt would not “perjure” him or “put his life in danger.”
He said he only used one key for the BMW, and though the gardai found a second key in his house in a search, he had been unaware of it. He agreed he was the main driver of the jeep.
Asked again about his movements on February 5, 2016, he said he did not want to mislead the gardai with times, but “in general terms” he went between Newbrook Avenue and Drumnigh Wood and to suppliers Chadwicks and Roadstone.
On the day, he thought he was driving his jeep and a truck.
He said he would have heard about the shooting after lunch on the radio when “one of the lads said listen, listen.” He said he was at Newbrook most of the day, starting 10am at the earliest. He could not say the latest time he was there.
He said he was in the house in Newbrook at lunchtime and at the time of the shooting, 2.30pm.
Asked if he was near the Regency, he said “no.” He was asked if he had anyone else in his jeep that day. “Not to the best of my recollection,” he said. The gardai asked if any of his workers had access to the jeep that day.
“I would be comfortable enough to say they didn’t,” he replied.
This morning, the court heard Paul Murphy, who is accused of transporting one of the Regency “assassination team” said “thank God” and blessed himself when gardai came to seize his car two weeks later.
Gardai investigating the murder found the Toyota Avenisis parked outside the cabbie's home and identified themselves to him.
Detectives later arrested him and detained him on suspicion of using the taxi to drive a gunman away after the attack. The court also heard gardai discovered Mr Murphy’s phone was switched off at the time of the murder and gardai found this “unusual.”
Now-retired Detective Garda William Armstrong said he went to Mr Murphy’s address in Swords on February 19, 2016 with a colleague in an unmarked car.
He saw the Avensis parked on the roadway and believed it was a vehicle being sought in the ongoing Regency murder investigation.
He remained there and made a call to have the car towed for forensic examination.
Mr Armstrong said he spoke to Mr Murphy and identified himself.
“He asked me if we were guards, I said yes we were and he said ‘thank God’ and blessed himself,” Mr Armstrong said.
He asked if Mr Murphy owned the vehicle and “he indicated that he did” and produced a bunch of keys from his pocket and handed them over.
Mr Armstrong said he explained to Mr Murphy that he was seizing the car and explained in ordinary language that it would be taken and forensically examined.
Mr Murphy told him he understood and asked “would it take long.” Mr Armstrong said he did not know and Mr Murphy said he was going to work. In cross-examination, Bernard Condon SC, for Mr Murphy asked Mr Armstrong if he had been sent to that address.
He replied that he had been aware the vehicle was sought in the investigation and searched a number of locations.
Mr Condon suggested Mr Murphy would have been a suspect at the time and the garda did not caution him.
The court heard Inspector Alan Govern was a detective sergeant on duty in Ballymun garda station when Paul Murphy was brought in in custody on May 30, 2016. It was 4.30pm and Mr Murphy had been arrested earlier that day at Travel Lodge in Swords, on suspicion of being involved in the murder of David Byrne with a firearm at the Regency on February 5.
Insp Govern was present when Mr Murphy was read his notice of rights and signed it. Det Sgt Brian Hanley had a conversation with him about the arrest and explained the reason for it.
Det Sgt Hanley told him the reasons he believed Mr Murphy should be detained under the Offences Against The State Act.
He said it was suspected that on February 5, Mr Murphy transported in his taxi a number of the participants in the murder to Buckingham Village in the north inner city.
Det Sgt Hanley showed him CCTV of the taxi arriving at Buckingham Village at 10.54am on February 5 and again at 12.02pm and 12.10pm. He said Mr Murphy had previously admitted to being the sole driver of the taxi that day.
He said at 12.16pm a black BMWX5 believed to have been in possession of Jason Bonney arrived at Buckingham Village at 12.39pm. The taxi also arrived again, he said, and at 12.56pm three vehicles left in convoy, including Mr Murphy’s taxi and a silver Ford Transit van believed to have been used in Mr Byrne’s murder.
Det Sgt Hanley told him Mr Murphy had been identified at the Maxol garage on the Howth Road at 1.15pm and showed him CCTV footage of Mr Murphy’s taxi parked outside the Beachcomber Pub at 1.22pm.
The taxi joined a convoy with the BMWX5 believed to have been driven by Mr Bonney at 1.40pm. The convoy was also joined by a black Skoda taxi, Det Sgt Hanley told him, and the three cars proceeded to St Vincent’s GAA club grounds. They waited there until the gunmen abandoned the
Ford Transit van in Charlemont estate and Paul Murphy’s taxi “took away the gunman from the area.”
Det Sgt Hanley told him Mr Murphy had been found in possession of a swipe card for entry to Buckingham Village through gates at Bella Street. Its serial number was one digit away in sequential order from a swipe card that had been found in possession of Patrick Hutch Senior. Det Sgt Hanley also told him receipts from Mr Murphy’s taxi did not correspond with the CCTV footage from that day, and that a mobile phone registered to Mr
Murphy was turned off between 1.20pm and 3pm. That “appeared to be unusual” when compared to the normal use of his mobile phone. At 5.38pm, Insp Govern went to the cells and explained to Mr Murphy the reason for his arrest.
In cross-examination, Mr Condon asked Insp Govern if he had asked Det Sgt Hanley how he had got evidence such as the CCTV footage and phone records.
He put it to Insp Govern it was his responsibility to satisfy himself about what he was being told and he was “not a mere rubber stamp.” He ought to have asked about where this evidence came from, he said. Insp Govern said he took it at face value.
Chief Superintendent Finbarr Murphy said on May 30, 2016 Det Sgt Hanley sought permission to take Mr Murphy’s photograph, prints and DNA sample.
Det Sgt Hanley outlined the part Mr Murphy was alleged to have played in the “overall scheme of the murder.”
It was alleged he was driver of a car that had been seen prior to the murder, driving in convoy to St Vincent’s GAA grounds in Marino. It was alleged
that after the shooting Mr Murphy had driven “one of the assassination team or assailant team from the scene in that car.”
Chief Supt Murphy was satisfied there was sufficient evidence to authorise the photos, prints and DNA. He also had a later conversation where Det
Sgt Hanley said he wished to put evidence including taxi receipts to Mr Murphy and an extension of the custody time was authorised.
In cross-examination, Mr Condon asked him if it had been brought to his attention at the time that Mr Murphy had been interviewed previously and the receipts were already shown to him.
Chief Supt Murphy said he had no note of that and presumed it was not brought to his attention, but it would not have changed his position.
Chief Supt Barry O'Brien gave evidence of further extensions of Mr Murphy's time in custody. The court heard gardai had intended to investigate any DNA link to a "blanket" and Chief Supt O'Brien said the purpose was to see who might have been in contact with a blanket wrapped around the
AK47s used in the shooting. He had mistakenly used the word "bracelet" in evidence and Mr Condon said this was "rather casual." It was an error, Chief Supt O'Brien replied.
The trial continues before Ms Justice Tara Burns, Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone.
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