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Jonathan Dowdall jeep had tracking device when he drove ‘Monk’ to meet IRA after Regency shooting, court told

Meanwhile, two other men on trial with Mr Hutch failed in their legal challenge against the admissibility of evidence of their garda interviews

Jonathan Dowdall and his father Patrick (centre)

Andrew PhelanSunday World

FORMER Sinn Fein councillor Jonathan Dowdall’s jeep had a tracking device on it when he allegedly drove murder accused Gerard Hutch north for a meeting with republicans after the Regency hotel shooting, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

A senior garda said when he sought CCTV footage of the jeep in Northern Ireland, he was aware a device had been fitted to Dowdall’s Toyota Land Cruiser.

The murder trial also heard that an hour after the seizure of the AK47s used in the Regency attack, gardai raided Dowdall's home searching for IRA weapons but instead found unrelated video of him torturing a man.

Gerard "The Monk" Hutch is charged with murdering David Byrne who was shot dead in a gangland raid at the Dublin hotel on February 5, 2016.

Two co-accused men, Jason Bonney and Paul Murphy are accused of helping the criminal organisation responsible by providing cars used to drive the assailants away after the shooting.

Gerry Hutch

Mr Byrne (33), a Kinahan gang member, was killed 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 attack on a boxing weigh-in event happened as a bloody feud raged between the Kinahan and Hutch 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.

Before the trial started, Jonathan Dowdall and his father Patrick were jailed for facilitating the murder by booking a room at the Regency for use by the perpetrators.

Today, now-retired Detective Inspector William Hanrahan gave evidence of seeking CCTV footage from the PSNI for dates including February 20, 2016. The court has previously heard Mr Dowdall and Mr Hutch allegedly went to Northern Ireland for a meeting with republicans that day.

Mr Hanrahan was working for the Special Detective Unit at the time and he was interested in the movements of Jonathan Dowdall’s Land Cruiser and its occupants. He was asked to seek footage from the Quays Shopping Centre in Newry and BP garage on Newry Road in Co Armagh.

In cross-examination, Brendan Grehan SC, for Mr Hutch, asked Mr Hanrahan if he had been aware there was a tracker device fitted to the landcruiser.

“I was, yes,” he replied.

He confirmed that the PSNI had supplied intelligence to Garda Crime and Security in relation to this particular vehicle in Northern Ireland. He was then contacted by Crime and Security to canvas another section of the PSNI for the footage. Mr Grehan asked Mr Hanrahan how he was aware that the intelligence about the jeep at the Quays and BP came from the PSNI.

“From what I was told,” he replied.

The court heard the Special Detective Unit investigated terrorism and was concerned about the movements of explosives and firearms by the IRA.

This afternoon, Inspector Patrick Boyce first gave evidence of collecting CCTV footage of Jonathan Dowdall’s jeep in Northern Ireland on February 20, 2016. Stills were shown to the court of Dowdall in a shop at a BP garage in Newry with a man alleged to be Gerard Hutch in a beanie hat.

In cross-examination, Mr Grehan asked if he knew anything about a tracker being fitted on Dowdall’s Land Cruiser.

“I was aware there was audio but not a tracker,” Insp Boyce replied.

Mr Grehan then asked him about a search at Dowdall’s Navan Road home on March 9, 2016.

The search was carried out on the basis that gardai believed that firearms and explosives were being stored there and at a work address, on behalf of the IRA.

The house at Navan Road was searched shortly after 8pm, around an hour after gardai intercepted IRA member Shane Rowan driving north in Slane Co Meath with three AK47s that had been used in the Regency shooting.

Insp Boyce said he was aware there had been “interactions” between Rowan and Dowdall.

When he got the search warrant five days earlier he believed Jonathan Dowdall was in control of the firearms.

He agreed that the execution of the warrant on the day the AK47s were seized was not a coincidence and the two events were connected.

No firearms or explosives were located in the two-day search and Mr Grehan asked if the garda diving unit had been brought in to search a “significant” fish pond in the back garden. Insp Boyce said reports of this were a “slight exaggeration.”

Gardai did seize a USB thumb drive in a kitchen cupboard which had a video on it.

“It showed Mr Dowdall and his father torturing Mr Alex Hurley,” Insp Boyce said.

No complaint had been made at that stage and gardai sought the victim out. Mr Hurley had been taken to Dowdall’s house under the pretence of being brought to dinner before being bundled into the garage.

He was tied to a chair with cable ties and “water-boarded”, where a cloth was put over his head and doused with water.

His head was shaved and he was threatened he would be brought up the north and shot.

Mr Grehan said the “waterboarding” expression was more associated with “Guantanamo.”

Patrick Dowdall was visible in the video and threatened to cut Mr Hurley’s fingers off, Insp Boyce said. Jonathan Dowdall, wearing a balaclava was doing most of the talking and threats.

Mr Grehan asked if Jonathan Dowdall ever gave him an explanation after he was arrested.

“No,” he replied.

The court heard gardai also searched business premises and a large yacht belonging to his father in the south east.

The Dowdalls had since pleaded guilty to threats to kill, assault and false imprisonment. Jonathan Dowdall was initially sentenced to 12 years and his father to 10 but they were reduced on appeal.

Detective Garda Alan Lynch said after the shooting, he went through the Regency hotel manifest and called people who had been staying there.

One of the names booked on the night of February 4 was Patrick Dowdall, who identified himself when Det Gda Lynch phoned him.

His one-night-only booking for Room 2104 was marked as “departed” on the morning of February 5. Further enquiries showed the room had been booked at 6.19pm on February, with a credit card used to secure it.

Patrick Dowdall had arrived an hour after the booking and filled out a form. The address and phone number he used were “slightly incorrect” with an incomplete address for a family member. A digit was out of sequence in the phone number.

He had used a relative’s credit card to secure the booking but paid in cash.

In cross-examination, Det Gda Lynch told Mr Grehan that Patrick Dowdall had told him he had booked the room but cancelled it and did not use it, so the garda initially noted that no statement was required.

The court heard other investigators brought it to his attention that the name Dowdall was of significance in the murder investigation. Det Gda Lynch said he made further enquiries about Dowdall’s booking.

Mr Grehan said Det Gda Lynch stated that after this, he was satisfied that Patrick Dowdall had in fact used the room and he was lying to him when he said he had cancelled it. There were a number of suspicious elements to the booking, he agreed.

Karl Wall, bar manager at the Regency at the time said he was working on the day of the attack and saw boxers and coaches in the Regency Suite for the weigh in, having food and drinks and nobody stood out as unusual or suspicious.

He was at the conference centre bar getting it ready for a Brendan Grace show when he heard two loud bangs. He thought it might be the stage crew getting ready for the show, but then a father and son and another man ran into the room and behind the bar and told him what was happening in the Regency Suite.

People were running through the laneway as he went there and when he went into the Regency suite, he “could smell gunfire.”

There was a man in a grey tracksuit lying on the ground who had been shot in the leg and when he went out to the lobby, Mr Wall saw “a fella” lying there and “he knew he was dead.”

“There was no movement whatsoever,” Mr Wall said.

There was a smell of gunpowder in the air, he said. The attackers were not there and he called the gardai.

Earlier, The three-judge court ruled admissible evidence of statements and interviews Mr Murphy and Mr Bonney gave to investigating gardai before and after their arrest.

Jason Bonney outside the Criminal Courts of Justice

Their defence had challenged the admissibility of the evidence, arguing that Mr Murphy and Bonney had been initially unfairly questioned without being cautioned and subsequent interviews were tainted by this.

Both accused had already had their cars seized from them when gardai first questioned them at their homes without cautioning them in February 2016. Mr Bonney was interviewed on February 21 and Mr Murphy was interviewed on February 22 and they both gave accounts of their movements on the day of the attack, denying they knew anything about it.

Statements were taken from Mr Murphy under caution on March 3 and 9 before his arrest on May 30, when he was further interviewed. Mr Bonney was arrested on May 27 and was also interviewed.

John Fitzgerald SC, for Mr Bonney, had argued the initial failure to caution his client was a grave error and what he said “fed into” subsequent interviews. He also argued that the decision to detain Mr Bonney was based on incorrect assertions that his client was visible at some locations on CCTV.

Bernard Condon, SC, for Mr Murphy adopted the same arguments and said his client was in the “suspect” category when the garda failed to caution him. He maintained the process of detaining Mr Murphy amounted to a “rubber stamp” by gardai.

Paul Murphy outside the Criminal Courts of Justice

In the court’s ruling, Ms Justice Burns said the interviewing garda, now-retired Det Gda Alan Crummey, had accepted he had made a mistake in misreading a direction to caution the accused. However, he said he was on a fact finding mission and did not consider either of the accused suspects at that stage.

It was a “cornerstone of our democracy” that everyone had a right to silence and people had a right not to incriminate themselves, Ms Justice Burns said. However, people had a right to speak voluntarily to gardai and gardai were entitled to speak to potential suspects. The law did not require a caution to be administered to a person being interviewed in the ordinary way, even a suspect, when they were not in custody, she said.

Neither accused was in de facto custody at the time and their statements were voluntary, she said. Neither of the interviews contained any utterances in the nature of confessions - though they were of evidential significance, they set out their movements on the day and this was in fact exculpatory.

In both cases, what they said was read over to them and they agreed they were accurate. Most telling, she said, was the fact that when in custody, each accused referred back to their earlier conversations with the gardai without objecting to the process or resiling from what they had said.

Mr Bonney referred time and again to relying on his previous interview, she said.

While Det Gda Crummey clearly made an error, that in itself did not establish any unfairness to the accused.

There were no objective grounds for concluding there was any fundamental unfairness in the failure to caution the accused, she said, allowing the evidence to be admitted into the trial.

On Mr Bonney’s defence claim there was a “factual error” in the grounding of Mr Murphy’s detention, Ms Justice Burns ruled that no error had been established and the information about the CCTV was not inaccurate when taken as a whole.The decisions to detain both accused and extend detention were lawfully made, the court ruled.

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

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