The Dowdalls are to be isolated on a wing of their own within the prison system to prevent contact with the rest of the prison population
The move is understood to be part of a stringent security regime being drawn up between the Irish Prison Service and the Garda Crime and Security Branch to protect the State’s witnesses from potential attack while in prison.
The Dowdalls are to be isolated on a wing of their own within the prison system to prevent contact with the rest of the prison population.
The protection arrangements are also likely to involve specialist armed gardaí providing protection to the State’s witnesses behind bars, as an extra precaution to back up to prison staff.
The Special Criminal Court yesterday imposed a four-year sentence on Jonathan Dowdall for facilitating the criminal organisation involved in the Regency Hotel attack.
He and his father Patrick, who was jailed for two years, booked room 2104 in the hotel for Kevin Murray, a member of the hit team who stayed in the Regency on the night before the attack, which resulted in another 16 murders – 14 of which were committed by the Kinahan cartel.
Gardaí have classified the threat level against the Dowdalls and their family as “severe” and a number of their close relatives have already been warned that their lives may be in danger.
Sources revealed that the wider Hutch gang has “gone into overdrive” in trying to “dissuade” the father and son from going ahead with their testimony in the upcoming trial of Gerry Hutch and two other men, which is to get underway today.
The meal arrangements for the two men will be an important part of what one source described as a “360 degree” security regime, where nothing is left to chance.
The precaution of specially preparing meals for State’s witnesses who are serving prison sentences was first mooted for former members of the Gilligan gang.
Three members of the drug gang – Charlie Bowden, John Dunne and Russell Warren, the first to enter the Witness Security Programme in Ireland – had their meals cooked after gardaí discovered a plot to poison them.
“You really have to cover every possible eventuality no matter how small because in these cases there are very dangerous people who will go to any lengths to stop people talking,” a security source said.
During the Gilligan trials a disused tower overlooking the entrance to the prison was blocked up after an attempt was made to hire a sniper to attack the van carrying the witnesses to court.
In another case, where a former gang member testified – this time against the McCarthy/Dundon gang in Limerick – gardaí foiled a plot to launch a rocket attack on the prison van carrying witness James Martin Cahill to court.
Gang leaders John and Wayne Dundon placed an order for RPG rocket launchers, assault rifles, machine guns and ammunition with a UK arms dealer when he visited them in prison.
However, the “dealer” was actually an undercover UK police officer and two members of the gang were later convicted of trying to collect the arsenal of weapons.
Meanwhile, the decision by Jonathan Dowdall to give evidence against his former friend has sent shockwaves through the wider Hutch organised crime group.
Last week we revealed how his 50-plus page statement was being scrutinised with a view to preferring charges against other individuals relating to the Regency attack.
However, it is unlikely that gardaí will make any fresh moves in the long-running investigation until after the trial of Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch and his two co-accused.