Jonathan Dowdall claims he was 'set up’ for Regency murder of David Byrne

Dowdall told the Special Criminal Court he believed a paramilitary-connected gunman was put in the hotel room intentionally to “tie it back to me and my family.”

Sunday World

Former Sinn Fein councillor Jonathan Dowdall has said he believed he was "set up” over the Regency murder when he got involved in booking a room at the hotel the night before the shooting.

Dowdall told the Special Criminal Court he believed a paramilitary-connected gunman was put in the hotel room intentionally to “tie it back to me and my family.”

He denied putting Gerard Hutch “in the frame” for murder in an attempt to defend himself.

Dowdall (44) was being cross-examined on his third day of evidence in Mr Hutch’s trial for murdering David Byrne at the Regency.

Dowdall began testifying on Monday, when he alleged that Mr Hutch confessed that he and another man shot Mr Byrne.

The Kinahan gang member was killed when five raiders, three disguised as ERU gardai with assault rifles along with an armed man in a flat cap and another gunman dressed as a woman stormed the hotel.

The attack at a boxing weigh-in on February 5, 2016 fuelled the Kinahan-Hutch gang feud. Mr Hutch (59), of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin, has pleaded not guilty to the murder.

Dowdall had also been charged Mr Byrne’s murder but before the trial started he instead pleaded guilty to facilitating the killing, by helping his father Patrick to book a room in the Regency for use by the attackers.

His murder charge was withdrawn by the prosecution and he turned state’s witness. Dowdall has made two main allegations against his former co-accused.

Jonathan Dowdall is giving evidence in the Regency murder trial

The first is that when he drove his father Patrick Dowdall to hand over the Regency room keys the day before the attack, it was to Mr Hutch. The court has heard the room was later used by the raider in the flat cap, now-deceased Kevin Murray.

The second allegation Dowdall made was that three days after the shooting, Mr Hutch met him in a park and confessed that he and another man had shot David Byrne.

This morning, Mr Grehan resumed his questioning of Dowdall on his evidence.

Mr Grehan said in November last year, Dowdall’s solicitor had contacted the gardai to say he had information about the Regency.

He asked Dowdall what else he was after went to the gardai after six and a half years apart from a desire to talk to them and tell them the truth.

“When you find out that a room was used for something you knew nothing about to set you up in a murder you had nothing to do with,” Dowdall said. “I had things I wanted to explain to the guards.”

“You also wanted to get the charge of murder against you dropped,” Mr Grehan said.

“I wasn’t involved in a murder,” Dowdall replied.

Mr Grehan told him he had been charged with murder so “somebody else seemed to believe that you were.”

“Apparently it’s my fault I was charged with murder when I didn’t explain things,” he said. The reason he did not explain things was because of the “danger to my wife and children and other family members.”

He said it was “only natural” that he wanted to have the charge dropped because he was not involved in the murder.

“Why would I take the blame for murder when I wasn’t involved, to keep other people happy?” Dowdall said.

Mr Grehan put it to him that getting the charge dropped was always part of his motivation in talking to the gardai.

“It’s only natural if you are not involved in a murder and you didn’t say certain things” that you would want to speak to the gardai and clear it up, he said. “I shouldn’t have been charged with murder.”

Dowdall said people had booked the room and put a person in the room “to tie it back to me and my family.”

“That was done intentionally,” he said.

He did not know the man who stayed in the room - Kevin “Flat Cap” Murray - who came down the next day, left in a taxi and “came back as himself.”

“You would want to be deranged to book a room for a situation if you knew something like that was going to happen,” Dowdall said.

He insisted he was “always going to speak to the guards but he could not do this while he was in prison.

He said there were “guards involved in the last trial that played a part in collapsing that trial.”

A prison van arrives at the Special Criminal Court today where Jonathan Dowdall continues to give evidence in the trial of Gerry Hutch, for the murder of David Byrne. Photo: Collins Courts

“I was not going to take the risk of speaking to anybody till I was sure that it was secure and safe to do so,” he said.

Mr Grehan put it to him that it would only have been natural to want a murder charge dropped whether he had committed it or not.

Dowdall said there had been an option of getting a separate trial.

Mr Grehan said this came “late in the day as another bargaining ploy” by Dowdall when the DPP initially indicated that the murder charge would not be dropped.

“I couldn’t defend myself as part of this trial, that is why I spoke to the guards,” Dowdall said.

Mr Grehan asked him if the natural way to defend himself was to put Gerard Hutch in the frame. “I didn’t put Gerard Hutch in the frame, Gerard Hutch put himself in the frame,” he replied.

He said when Patsy Hutch asked his father to book the room, he asked him to wait in the hotel.

“That would have looked like my father knew Flat Cap,” he said.

Mr Grehan asked him if the original plan was to hand the key over to Flat Cap.

“That was what was suggested and I believe that was to try to connect Flat Cap Kevin Murray to my father and me,” he said. “How would that have looked?”

Mr Grehan said Dowdall’s account of the arrangement to hand over the hotel key cards had been all “Pasty Patsy Patsy” and then “suddenly looming out of the shadows, it’s Gerard” who turned up to get them.

“The Hutches are willing to throw somebody else under the bus, your client is willing to throw his own brother under the bus,” Dowdall said. “If it was Patsy who got the cards, I would have said it was Patsy.”

David Byrne’s parents Sadie and James 'Jaws' Byrne were in court again to hear Dowdall’s evidence.

The ex-politician is serving a four year sentence for facilitating David Byrne’s murder, while his father Patrick was jailed for two years for the same offence.

Before his evidence began, the court heard Dowdall was at severe risk and is still being assessed for the garda witness protection programme.

The non-jury trial is being heard amid heightened security at the Criminal Courts of Justice.

Two other men are also on trial with Mr Hutch. Jason Bonney (51) of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock and Paul Murphy (61) of Cherry Avenue, Swords, deny providing cars for the attack team. Mr Dowdall’s evidence does not relate to them.

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

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