Confidential information | 

Jonathan Dowdall felt ‘under threat’ from Hutches after coming forward about Regency

Dowdall approached gardai with “potentially explosive” information before turning state’s witness against Gerard “The Monk” Hutch, the Special Criminal Court heard.

Gerry Hutch and Jonathan Dowdall

Andrew PhelanSunday World

Former Sinn Fein councillor Jonathan Dowdall told gardai he felt “under threat from the Hutches” and Kinahans when he came forward with confidential information about the Regency shooting.

Dowdall approached gardai with “potentially explosive” information before turning state’s witness against Gerard “The Monk” Hutch, the Special Criminal Court heard.

The defence has challenged evidence Dowdall is due to give in Mr Hutch's trial for the murder of David Byrne at the Regency Hotel in north Dublin.

Dowdall had also been accused of the murder but before the trial began, he instead admitted a lesser charge helping the killers and was jailed for four years.

Mr Hutch is charged with murdering Mr Byrne in the February 5, 2016 gangland attack.

Gerry Hutch

Two other men, Jason Bonney and Paul Murphy are accused of facilitating the killing by providing cars for the perpetrators.

Mr Byrne (33), a Kinahan gang member, was shot dead after five armed raiders, three wielding assault rifles and disguised as ERU gardai, stormed the Regency.

The attack on a boxing weigh-in event fuelled a bloody feud between the Kinahan and Hutch crime gangs.

Mr Hutch (59), of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin, Mr Murphy (61) of Cherry Avenue, Swords and Mr Bonney (51) of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, deny the charges against them.

Last Friday, the non-jury court’s three judges ruled admissible tapes of conversations between Mr Hutch and Dowdall as they drove north on March 7, 2016.

Ms Justice Tara Burns said although some eight hours of the evidence was illegally recorded by gardai in Northern Ireland, it could all be used in evidence in the interest of justice.

Mr Hutch’s barrister Brendan Grehan today began his challenge to the admissibility of evidence to be given by Dowdall.

He cross-examined gardai who dealt with approaches by Dowdall to provide information to them during the investigation. Now-retired Detective Superintendent Paul Scott said he took over from the late Colm Fox and senior investigating officer in the case.

He said Dowdall, who was charged with David Byrne’s murder in April 2021 made contact with him through his solicitor Jenny McGeever on November 22 last year.

She indicated that her client wished to speak to the gardai about the Regency and met gardai where she read from a pre-prepared document.

Further correspondence between them set out “pre-conditions” that Dowdall was seeking before speaking to the gardai.

Dowdall was in possession of information in relation to the Regency incident and if a statement was to be made it was not to be under caution and could not be used in evidence against him, the conditions stated.

Armed garda. Photo: Stock© PA

The first meeting was to be a short one where gardai would get an idea of what was being said.

Det Supt Scott did not agree to any conditions, he told Mr Grehan, but he tasked Det Sgt Patrick O’Toole to deal with Dowdalls and a number of meetings were set up.

Mr Grehan put it to him that there was a “total lack of urgency” by the gardai in following up Dowdall’s approach and questioned why meetings were not recorded.

Det Supt Scott said the gardai did not initially know what Dowdall wanted to discuss, and it was not standard practice to record information of a confidential, sensitive nature being given.

Later, he admitted there was “confusion” over who was supposed to get back in contact with whom.

Mr Grehan asked what steps he took as a result of the “potentially explosive” information that he learned.

Det Supt Scott said he brought it to the attention of his superiors and the DPP.

Det Supt Scott said there was a “very small team” tasked to deal with this and spoke of the “magnitude of what was disclosed” and the confidentiality surrounding it.

“There’s no doubt that what was disclosed was of a high order,” he said.

He agreed with Mr Grehan that the information was potentially “huge” for this and other trials.

In a letter to Dowdall's solicitor in July this year, Det Supt Scott stated that Dowdall was charged with the murder of Mr Byrne, was due to stand trial in October and he was "requiring you to formally notify in writing" her client's intentions so the gardai could appraise the DPP's office.

Mr Grehan asked him to explain this and Det Supt Scott said Dowdall had provided information but at no point "indicated that he was looking for anything in particular."

Mr Grehan asked if it struck him that Dowdall was looking for something from the very beginning when he made contact.

"That could have been in the back of my mind but he never stated it," he replied.

Detective Sergeant Patrick O’Toole said when he became involved, he “surmised it had something to do with the Regency and knew nothing about any pre-conditions.

Arranging a location, he was “against” going to prison to speak to Dowdall, or taking him out for a medical appointment.

However, Dowdall was granted High Court bail and he agreed with Mr Grehan that this made the task of meeting possible.

He said he was not informed that the meeting was to be short. Det Sgt O’Toole said he spoke to Dowdall’s wife Patricia on the phone on the evening of May 17 this year and was told “it was about the shooting of David Byrne”, and she was “in fear, and in fear for her family and that Jonathan would be shot dead.”

He arranged to meet the Dowdalls in Dublin Airport Garda Station on May 18. He said he wanted the surroundings to be comfortable because “Patricia on the phone sounded extremely scared and upset by what they were facing.”

This was not a statement but a meeting so he did not record it but a garda took notes.

He did not caution Dowdall as he “wasn’t a suspect” and it “wasn’t an interrogation.” Dowdall's wife was there for support. The sergeant would have re-considered a caution if something incriminating against Dowdall came up.

At the three-hour meeting, the Dowdalls were “both extremely nervous and in fear and it was initially difficult to calm them.”

“He raised concerns that he felt under threat from the Hutches, that organisation, and also he was in fear from the Kinahans because he was charged with the murder,” Det Sgt O’Toole said of Jonathan Dowdall.

Later, he also mentioned feeling under threat from”the provos”, he said. At the end of the meeting, he suggested that Jonathan Dowdall go off and write down everything he was aware of in relation to the Regency and they would meet again to discuss it.

He said he believed the Dowdalls had his number and they would get in touch with him. Mr Grehan said from correspondence it seemed that the Dowdalls did not have his number and were waiting for him to contact them.

Ms McGeever had written “increasingly irate” letters enquiring about this.

Mr Grehan said it was a “very curious approach” for the gardai in a matter of this magnitude. “These were sensitive matters, I didn;t want to be seen to push Mr Dowdall in any direction,” he said. “This was of his own free will.”

Det Sgt O'Toole's evidence was continuing in the non-jury trial this afternoon.

At his own sentence hearing before the Regency trial started, the court heard Jonathan Dowdall had provided “material assistance” to the investigation with a statement that “implicated another person or persons” and had made himself available as a prosecution witness.

An assessment carried out by gardai suggested a “severe” risk to Dowdall and members of his family, who were placed in protective garda custody. At the time, the court heard

Dowdall was being assessed for the garda Witness Protection Programme and would have to spend his life in exile, "looking over his shoulder," his barrister Michael O'Higgins said.

His father Patrick was jailed for two years before the Regency trial started after he also admitted his part in booking a room for the raiders.

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