Jonathan Dowdall to shatter gangland’s golden rule of Omerta as he gives evidence against Gerry Hutch

Never before has a witness had quite so many enemies

Sunday World

It's gangland’s sacred code and when Jonathan Dowdall steps into the Special Criminal Court tomorrow to give evidence against Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch, he is expected to break ‘Omerta’ in spectacular fashion.

Never before has a witness had quite so many enemies – some even going as far as suggesting he is the figure with the highest possible critical threat level against him in the history of the State.

Dowdall is currently behind bars along with his father Patrick, where they are relatively safe. However, his family – his wife and four children – are not and, undoubtedly, their as yet undecided status within the Witness Protection Programme must be causing chaos.

It is highly unusual that a witness would not be signed up to the Programme before they give evidence in court, and despite assurances from Sean Gillane SC that the process usually takes six months, Justice Tara Burns – who presides over The Monk’s trial – said she does not accept that.

In fact, the Judge stated she has prosecuted on a number of cases involving Witness Protection and she knew it could take far less time to complete the process.

Dowdall gave his signed statement to Gardaí in late September and by October, when he pleaded guilty to facilitating the murder of David Byrne and the State dropped the murder charge against him, the Special Criminal Court was told he was being ‘considered’ for the programme.

It’s not quite clear what ‘reports from outside agencies’ those in charge of Witness Protection are waiting for when they asserted to the court that the delay was not their fault.

And as the Programme is shrouded in secrecy and not operating on a statutory basis, it is difficult to know if Dowdall’s process to get signed on is protocol or subject to a specific delay.

In the case of Dave Mooney and An Garda Síochána, where the witness unsuccessfully sued the State for damages, he was only assessed by a psychotherapist after signing an ‘Entry Document’ before giving evidence, and he claimed he was offered no psychological or psychiatric counselling while on it.

Joseph O’Callaghan, the subject of the book and podcast, ‘The Witness’, was signed onto the Witness Protection Programme in a rush, he claims, when gangland killer Brian Kenny sought bail, also before he appeared in the witness box.

To clear things up for Dowdall, should he be under the impression that his ‘performance’ in court should determine whether or not he gets signed onto the Programme, a senior Garda from Crime and Security has been told to be in court tomororw.

The Detective Superintendent will be asked to clarify for Dowdall his position and what determines his acceptance onto the Programme.

The officer can then be cross-examined by Brendan Grehan, who represents Hutch. It is a process that will give a small window into what protocols exist for those signing up to the Programme.

They are also sure to make Dowdall even more nervous as he realises that he has, as yet, no help with his future.

In gangland circles, Omerta is punishable by death and there is no forgiveness for a person who turns State Witness.

In the case of Dowdall, he has isolated himself from his own, his enemies and an umbrella group he describes as the ‘Provos.’

Many before him in the decades of underworld history have chosen the same path, but have done so in order to save their own skin or to gain an immunity from prosecution.

Dowdall, the court has been told, did not seek to do so but simply wanted to tell the truth. In the complexities of his communication with Gardaí and his solicitor’s dealings with the Director of Public Prosecutions, it seems he only sought to tell the truth when he was faced with a murder charge.

His wife, Patricia, knew what it was like for her husband to be in prison as he had already served a term for the kidnap and torture of an innocent man who he water-boarded in the garage of his plush Navan Road home.

Unlike her husband’s previous stint in jail, Patricia, the court has heard, no longer had the support of her father, who had died, and couldn’t face coping alone if Jonathan was to be found guilty.

Together they told Gardaí they felt under threat from the Hutch organisation, the Kinahan mob and the ‘Provos’.

Dowdall said he’d been used by Gerry Hutch and was duped into taking a role in the Regency Hotel attack which resulted in the murder of David Byrne.

Amidst the meetings and the letter writing to the DPP, Dowdall was given a better option than a murder charge and was told the State would accept a guilty plea on facilitation to murder.

He would subsequently get a sentence of four years.

Why Dowdall wasn’t urged to tell the truth in the years before he was hit with a murder charge will likely be dealt with as he is cross- examined about his evidence, a process that could take days.

This week, Brendan Grehan SC, for ‘The Monk’, described how the ‘spectre’ of Dowdall has been hanging over the whole trial, an accurate description of the looming presence of the witness since the proceedings got underway in November.

The ex-politician can expect that his life and lifstyle will be torn apart bit by bit over the coming days.

In particular, the focus of attention will be two key parts of the State’s evidence – Dowdall’s claims that Gerry Hutch told him he had carried out the Regency attack and his evidence about meeting him to hand over a hotel key card.

Neither of the allegations are caught on tape and both are coming directly from Dowdall. The trial will mark the first time Hutch has laid eyes on Dowdall since he turned State Witness against him and the first time that the two men will stand in a room together, just metres apart.

For Dowdall, the moment he places his hand on the bible and agrees to tell ‘the truth and nothing but the truth’ is surely one that weighs heavy as he lies in his cell tonight. One more sleep.

The trial continues.

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