Gerry Hutch defence says it would be 'illegal’ if car he was allegedly in was bugged in NI

Mr Hutch was travelling north in Jonathan Dowdall’s jeep a month after the shooting when their conversation was recorded by a surveillance device, it is alleged

Mr Hutch is on trial with two other men over the gangland killing of David Byrne at Dublin’s Regency Hotel

Andrew PhelanSunday World

Regency murder accused Gerard Hutch’s defence has said it would be “illegal” if a car he was allegedly in was electronically bugged or tracked in Northern Ireland.

Mr Hutch was travelling north in former Sinn Fein councillor Jonathan Dowdall’s jeep a month after the shooting when their conversation was recorded by a surveillance device, it is alleged.

His lawyer told the Special Criminal Court today he would argue it was against the law if such devices were deployed outside this jurisdiction.

Mr Hutch is on trial with two other men over the gangland killing of David Byrne at Dublin’s Regency Hotel.

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 denies murdering Mr Byrne. Paul Murphy (59) of Cherry Avenue, Swords and Jason Bonney (50) of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, deny facilitating the murder by providing the perpetrators with access to vehicles.

Before the non-jury trial began, co-accused Jonathan Dowdall (44) and his father Patrick (65) were jailed when they pleaded guilty to facilitating the murder by booking a room at the Regency for the criminals who carried it out.

For the last three days, National Surveillance Unit gardai have been giving evidence and were cross-examined by Mr Hutch’s defence on whether electronic surveillance devices were placed on cars including Dowdall’s Toyota Land Cruiser jeep.

Some said they did not know, while others claimed privilege in not answering.

The NSU gardai have also been questioned about whether cars that were under surveillance were followed across the border into Northern Ireland and how they knew cars were to be at certain locations.

Mr Hutch was purportedly captured on CCTV at the Maldron Hotel, Adergrove, Belfast on March 7, 2016 travelling in Dowdall’s jeep. The prosecution has said it will have evidence of a recorded conversation between Dowdall and Mr Hutch on this journey.

Today, a PSNI officer gave evidence of being tasked to gather CCTV footage from the Maldron in Belfast from that day.

In cross-examination by Mr Hutch’s barrister Brendan Grehan SC, the PSNI officer said she was not privy to how or why she came to be tasked to gather the CCTV footage from the hotel.

Mr Grehan told the court's three judges it was of great significance to the defence whether a tracker device or listening bug were deployed on Jonathan Dowdall’s Land Cruiser while it was outside the state.

“We say this is illegal”, he said.

Jonathan Dowdall (right) and his father Patrick

In relation to CCTV footage from Northern Ireland, he said the defence wanted to know how the enquiries were made, within a short space of time.

The defence had had “limited success” with witnesses because the court was not hearing from who “tasked” the witnesses or “the person behind the person.”

“I’m going to keep asking the questions,” Mr Grehan said.

Prosecutor Sean Gillane said the prosecution had earlier offered to recall a witness on the issue of privilege challenge, but Mr Grehan had said “we are not there yet."

The prosecution was in the process of proving the CCTV footage it wished to play, he said.

Three more NCU gardai testified today, totalling 18 so far. By court order, they are only being identified by assigned initials, to protect current and future covert operations, and their safety.

Garda BM said he was tasked with searching an area on Blackhorse Avenue, Dublin 7 at 5.55pm on February 19. He was trying to find a white plastic bag but found nothing.

On March 9, 2016, he was in the Coolock area at 6.25pm when he saw Paddy Hutch from Champion’s Avenue in the north inner city driving a silver Toyota Yaris on Greencastle Avenue.

Garda H said he was on duty on March 9, 2016 at Killygordon, Co Donegal when he saw Shane Rowan driving a maroon Toyota Corolla at 9.27am. The Corolla drove to Stranorlar and turned into Drumboe Cottages before pulling up opposite Finn Valley College. The driver got out and went into a house at Hilltop Crescent. A few minutes later, the car left and drove into the centre of Stranorlar. At 9.56am he saw Rowan walk from the post office wearing a navy hooded jacket and blue jeans.

At 10.39am Rowan was driving alone in a grey Vauxhall in Killygordon towards Ballybofey. He was parked at Great Gas service station in Ballybofey at 11.36am, and at 11.41am, Gda H saw the car leave the service station. At 12.13pm, he saw it drive through Castlefinn towards the border.

He had no sightings of Rowan in Northern Ireland and said surveillance gardai “closed up on him” when he came back into the Republic at Emyvale.

The court earlier heard Rowan was an IRA member who was caught driving a Vauxhall Insignia north later on March 9 with three AK47s that had been used in the Regency shooting.

Garda CX said he saw Rowan driving the maroon Toyota Corolla in Ballybofey at 9.40am on March 9. He walked down Main Street at 9.56am, went to the post office and then Lidl. Rowan came out with a bakery-type paper bag and drove off. At 11.15am, CX saw the grey Vauxhall Insignia parked in a driveway at Lawnsdale Estate, Ballybofey. A Toyota Avensis was also in the driveway.

At 11.36am, Rowan left in the Vauxhall driving towards Main Street. At 12.25pm, Rowan was driving the Vauxhall across the border at Clady, Co Tyrone and Gda CX’s next sighting of him was at 1.55pm, at McCaughey’s Top service station, Broomfield, Co Monaghan. Rowan was in the garage shop on his own, wearing a grey jumper and jeans. He left in the Insignia at 2.25pm, in the direction of Dublin and Gda CX’s next sighting of Rowan was at Slane village, Co Meath at 2.45pm.

Later that day, at 4.55pm, Gda CX saw Patrick Hutch Snr driving a Toyota Yaris past the Texaco Garage on the Malahide Road in Coolock. Immediately behind the Yaris was Shane Rowan in the Insignia. They both turned left at Newtown Road.

At 5.11pm, the Yaris turned into Applegreen on the Malahide Road. Patrick Hutch Snr got out at 5.13pm, went into the shop and came out at 5.17pm with an item in his hand. He got back into the Yaris.

In cross-examination, Mr Grehan asked Gda CX what route Rowan drove south after he crossed the border. Gda CX said he himself drove down through Omagh but he was unaware of Rowan’s route as he did not observe him in the north.

Asked if there was a tracker device on the Insignia, he replied: “I claim privilege.”

Asked if he was surprised to see the Insignia at the garage on Broomfield, Gda CX said he would not have been surprised either way.

The trial continues before Ms Justice Tara Burns, Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone.

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