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Man accused of driving Regency gunman blessed himself when gardaí came for car, trial hears

Gardaí investigating the gangland murder of David Byrne in 2016 found the Toyota Avensis parked outside cabbie Paul Murphy’s home and identified themselves to him.

Paul Murphy (59), of Cabra Road, Dublin 7, at the Special Criminal Court, Dublin, where his trial continues. He is charged with facilitating a criminal organisation and he has pleaded not guilty. PIC: Collins Courts

The trial of Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch for the murder of David Byrne in 2016 is continuing at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphries

03/11/2022 A prison van under heavy Garda escort at the Special Criminal Court where the trial of Gerry Hutch, for the murder of David Byrne, continues. PIC: Collins Courts

2/11/22 Jason Bonney, of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, Dublin 13, at the Special Criminal Court, Dublin, yesterday (WEDS) where his trial continues. He is charged with facilitating a criminal organisation and he has pleaded not (NOT) guilty. PIC: Collins Courts

Andrew PhelanIndependent.ie

A taxi driver accused of transporting one of the Regency “assassination team” said “thank God” and blessed himself when gardaí came to seize his car two weeks later, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

Gardaí investigating the gangland murder of David Byrne in 2016 found the Toyota Avensis parked outside cabbie Paul Murphy’s home and identified themselves to him.

Detectives later arrested him and detained him on suspicion of using the taxi to drive a gunman away after the attack. The court also heard gardaí discovered Mr Murphy’s phone was switched off at the time of the murder and gardaí found this “unusual.”

Mr Murphy is on trial along with Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch and another man, Jason Bonney.

2/11/22 Jason Bonney, of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, Dublin 13, at the Special Criminal Court, Dublin, yesterday (WEDS) where his trial continues. He is charged with facilitating a criminal organisation and he has pleaded not (NOT) guilty. PIC: Collins Courts

While Mr Hutch is charged with Mr Byrne’s murder, Mr Murphy and Mr Bonney are accused of facilitating the killing by providing the perpetrators with access to vehicles.

Mr Murphy's lawyers are challenging the admissibility of evidence of his interviews and detention.

Mr Byrne (33), a Kinahan gang member, was shot dead when three assault rifle-wielding masked gunmen, disguised as ERU gardaí, 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 February 5, 2016 attack on a boxing weigh-in event happened as a bloody feud raged between the capital's Kinahan and Hutch gangs.

The trial of Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch for the murder of David Byrne in 2016 is continuing at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphries

Mr Hutch (59), of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin, Mr Murphy (61) of Cherry Avenue, Swords and Mr Bonney (50) of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, deny the charges against them.

The Regency attack team are alleged to have arrived at and fled the scene in a silver Ford Transit van.

The prosecution is alleging Mr Bonney and Mr Murphy are linked to other “vehicles of interest” in the investigation that were captured on CCTV in north Dublin on the day of the attack.

Today, now-retired Detective Garda William Armstrong said he went to Mr Murphy’s address in Swords on February 19, 2016 with a colleague in an unmarked car.

He saw the Avensis parked on the roadway and believed it was a vehicle being sought in the ongoing Regency murder investigation.

He remained there and made a call to have the car towed for forensic examination.

Mr Armstrong said he spoke to Mr Murphy and identified himself.

“He asked me if we were guards, I said yes we were and he said ‘thank God’ and blessed himself,” Mr Armstrong said.

03/11/2022 A prison van under heavy Garda escort at the Special Criminal Court where the trial of Gerry Hutch, for the murder of David Byrne, continues. PIC: Collins Courts

He asked if Mr Murphy owned the vehicle and “he indicated that he did” and produced a bunch of keys from his pocket and handed them over.

Mr Armstrong said he explained to Mr Murphy that he was seizing the car and explained in ordinary language that it would be taken and forensically examined.

Mr Murphy told him he understood and asked “would it take long.” Mr Armstrong said he did not know and Mr Murphy said he was going to work.

In cross-examination, Bernard Condon SC, for Mr Murphy, asked Mr Armstrong if he had been sent to that address.

Mr Armstrong replied that he had been aware the vehicle was sought in the investigation and searched a number of locations.

Mr Condon suggested Mr Murphy would have been a suspect at the time and the garda did not caution him.

The court heard Inspector Alan Govern was a detective sergeant on duty in Ballymun garda station when Paul Murphy was brought into custody on May 30, 2016.

It was 4.30pm and Mr Murphy had been arrested earlier that day at Travelodge in Swords, on suspicion of being involved in the murder of David Byrne with a firearm at the Regency on February 5. Insp Govern was present when Mr Murphy was read his notice of rights and signed it.

Det Sgt Brian Hanley had a conversation with him about the arrest and explained the reason for it. Det Sgt Hanley told him the reasons he believed Mr Murphy should be detained under the Offences Against The State Act.

He said it was suspected that on February 5, Mr Murphy transported in his taxi a number of the participants in the murder to Buckingham Village in the north inner city.

Det Sgt Hanley showed him CCTV of the taxi arriving at Buckingham Village at 10.54am on February 5 and again at 12.02pm and 12.10pm. He said Mr Murphy had previously admitted to being the sole driver of the taxi that day.

He said at 12.16pm a black BMWX5 believed to have been in possession of Jason Bonney arrived at Buckingham Village at 12.39pm. The taxi also arrived again, he said, and at 12.56pm three vehicles left in convoy, including Mr Murphy’s taxi and a silver Ford Transit van believed to have been used in Mr Byrne’s murder.

Det Sgt Hanley told him Mr Murphy had been identified at the Maxol garage on Howth Road at 1.15pm and showed him CCTV footage of Mr Murphy’s taxi parked outside the Beachcomber Pub at 1.22pm.

The taxi joined a convoy with the BMWX5 believed to have been driven by Mr Bonney at 1.40pm. The convoy was also joined by a black Skoda taxi, Det Sgt Hanley told him, and the three cars proceeded to St Vincent’s GAA club grounds.

They waited there until the gunmen abandoned the Ford Transit van in Charlemont estate and Paul Murphy’s taxi “took away the gunman from the area”.

Det Sgt Hanley told him Mr Murphy had been found in possession of a swipe card for entry to Buckingham Village through gates at Bella Street. Its serial number was one digit away in sequential order from a swipe card that had been found in possession of Patrick Hutch Senior.

Det Sgt Hanley also told him receipts from Mr Murphy’s taxi did not correspond with the CCTV footage from that day, and that a mobile phone registered to Mr Murphy was turned off between 1.20pm and 3pm. That “appeared to be unusual” when compared to the normal use of his mobile phone.

At 5.38pm, Insp Govern went to the cells and explained to Mr Murphy the reason for his arrest. In cross-examination, Mr Condon asked Insp Govern if he had asked Det Sgt Hanley how he had got evidence such as the CCTV footage and phone records.

He put it to Insp Govern it was his responsibility to satisfy himself about what he was being told and he was “not a mere rubber stamp”, He ought to have asked about where this evidence came from, he said. Insp Govern said he took it at face value.

Chief Superintendent Finbarr Murphy said that on May 30, 2016, Det Sgt Hanley sought permission to take Mr Murphy’s photograph, prints and DNA sample.

Det Sgt Hanley outlined the part Mr Murphy was alleged to have played in the “overall scheme of the murder”.

It was alleged he was the driver of a car that had been seen prior to the murder, which was in convoy to St Vincent’s GAA grounds in Marino. It was alleged that after the shooting Mr Murphy had driven “one of the assassination team or assailant team from the scene in that car”.

Chief Supt Murphy was satisfied there was sufficient evidence to authorise the photos, prints and DNA. He also had a later conversation where Det Sgt Hanley said he wished to put evidence, including taxi receipts, to Mr Murphy and an extension of the custody time was authorised.

In cross-examination, Mr Condon asked Chief Supt Murphy if it had been brought to his attention at the time that Mr Murphy had been interviewed previously and the receipts were already shown to him.

Chief Supt Murphy said he had no note of that and presumed it was not brought to his attention, but it would not have changed his position.

Chief Supt Barry O'Brien gave evidence of further extensions of Mr Murphy's time in custody. The court heard gardaí had intended to investigate any DNA link to a “blanket” and Chief Supt O'Brien said the purpose was to see who might have been in contact with a blanket wrapped around the AK47s used in the shooting.

He had mistakenly used the word “bracelet” in evidence and Mr Condon said this was “rather casual”. It was an error, Chief Supt O'Brien replied.

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


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