Jason Bonney’s BMW X5 had a fresh “valet smell” when it was taken from him as evidence
Jason Bonney’s BMW X5 had a fresh “valet smell” when it was taken from him as evidence two weeks after the gangland murder of David Byrne, a garda said.
Evidence was also heard that separately, investigating gardai "left behind" a vehicle key they had intended to seize during a house search due to an "error."
Mr Bonney is on trial with Gerard “The Monk” Hutch and another man, Paul Murphy.
While Mr Hutch is charged with Mr Byrne's murder, Mr Bonney and Mr Murphy are accused of helping the attack team by driving members away after the shooting.
Mr Byrne (33), a Kinahan gang member, was shot dead 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 February 5, 2016 attack on a boxing weigh-in event happened as a bloody feud raged between the capital's 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.
The Regency attackers are alleged to have arrived at and fled the scene in a silver Ford Transit van. Mr Murphy’s Toyota Avensis taxi and Mr Bonney’s BMW X5 jeep are both alleged to have been part of a convoy that parked up at the murder “launchpad” at nearby GAA club grounds, then transported the assassins away when they abandoned the Ford Transit.
Today, Garda Keith Cassidy said he was told a BMW X5 was of interest in the murder investigation having been seen on CCTV, and he was given a list of characteristics including tinted windows, an issue with the left brake light and dark alloy wheels.
On February 20, 2016 he was on duty in Donaghmede when a BMW X5 went by and caught his eye. He followed it and it stopped at Donaghmede Shopping Centre.
It pulled up and Jason Bonney got out and went into the centre. Gda Cassidy parked and approached the jeep, observing imitation boxing gloves hanging down at the rear view mirror.
It also had tinted windows and dark alloy wheels and he was satisfied it was the same vehicle.
He decided to seize it and stayed with it until Mr Bonney returned a short time later.
“I explained to him, Mr Bonney, I will be seizing this vehicle now,” he said, telling the court he explained the power he was using and that it was in connection with the murder of David Byrne.
“He said ‘well, it’s taxed and insured, everything is OK’,” Gda Cassidy said.
The garda reiterated why he was seizing it and Mr Bonney said “something about politics” and an article in a newspaper and “asked was it about that.”
Gda Cassidy said again it was suspected the car was involved in the murder of David Byrne.
“He was very calm and relaxed and said ‘well if you have to take it, you have to take it’, I know you have a job to do,” Gda Cassidy said.
“It looked like the car had only recently been valeted or cleaned, it was spotless, there was a fresh smell from the inside of the vehicle,” he continued. “It looked like it had been polished outside and deep cleaned inside.”
Mr Bonney gave him the key. In cross-examination Mr Bonney’s barrister John Fitzgerald SC said it seemed his client had been “surprised” when the jeep was seized.
It seemed he thought it might have something to do with it not being taxed or insured, he said. Mr Fitzgerald asked if the garda had closely inspected the car. Gda Cassidy said he opened it to look inside and it had “a valet smell, a very fresh smell. He imagined it would smell like that within 24 hours of a clean.
Earlier today, Detective Sergeant Patrick O’Toole said he went to Dublin District Court and got warrants to search two addresses in the north inner city.
On February 25, 2016, he swore information to obtain a warrant to search a house at Champion’s Avenue - the home of Patrick Hutch Snr, a brother of Gerard Hutch.
The warrant was to search the address for evidence of the commission of an offence - the unlawful possession of firearms at the Regency Hotel on February 5, 2016.
He gave an outline of the attack and said Mr Byrne was an associate of the Kinahan family which was in a dispute with the Hutch family.
He told the judge the address had been searched earlier, on February 23 when a Ford key had been observed on a rack in the hallway that was not accounted for by the occupier.
He had made enquiries and understood that the ignition and door key for the Ford Transit van that had been used in the murder had not been recovered in a forensic examination.
Judge Anthony Halpin issued the warrant and Det Sgt O’Toole and a search team went to Patrick Hutch’s home at 11.20am. They were given entry by Mr Hutch’s wife Catherine and in the search they found an e-flow tag for a vehicle, an ACT access card from a wallet in a jacket on a stairs post. Patrick Hutch’s driving licence was in the same wallet.
The team also seized a log book from a different Ford Transit van in Patrick Hutch Snr’s bedroom - this van was registered to Dowdall Electrical and the vehicle was not present at the address.
He later tested the ACT card at the gates to Buckingham Village and it operated it.
On March 22, 2016, Det Sgt O’Toole provided information for another warrant to Judge Michael Walsh at the District Court, to search an address at Buckingham Village. This was for suspected evidence in relation to Mr Byrne’s murder.
He told the judge a Ford Transit van used to transport the culprits from the Regency had been stored at the car park at Buckingham Village prior to the murder and was registered in a false name.
The keys were left at the address in Buckingham Village with the woman who lived there, for collection. He told the judge he was satisfied that evidence related to possession of the van was to be found there. He said the Ford Transit was seen on CCTV leaving Buckingham Village prior to the murder. Two magnetic swipe cards were located which opened the security gates at Buckingham Village. Det Sgt O’Toole believed evidence of swipe cards was to be found at the address.
Judge Walsh granted the warrant and the apartment at Buckingham Village was searched on March 24. The gardai were given entry by the woman and seized a box of swipe cards, Samsung tablet and HP laptop.
The box included used loose cards, packets of new cards and a packet that had been opened with four cards missing in a number sequence.
Cross-examined by Bernard Condon SC, for Mr Murphy, Det Sgt O’Toole said the Ford key that was seen in the first search of Patrick Hutch’s home on February 23 was not seized on that date. He returned to the same judge to get the new warrant to retrieve the key on February 25.
The information he gave on that date was identical except for the references to the key.
He informed the judge of the reason because it was unusual to have to go back to the same address.
Mr Condon asked if it was an oversight that the key was not seized.
“It was an error that it was not seized on the day so I got a warrant to go back and seize it,” he said.
Other keys had been taken in the first search but the Ford key was left behind. It was not located in the second search.
Mr Condon asked Det Sgt O’Toole if he had told the judge he had been there already for two hours and 20 minutes with a team of five gardai and he planned to return for a “full go-over of the house”.
He replied that the reason was to seize the keys and the warrant allowed the gardai to use as many members as they needed. He said he gave the judge a thorough briefing. The keys could have been anywhere and while searching, Det Sgt O’Toole came across the swipe card.
Det Sgt O’Toole said the key for the transit van used in the Regency was not found, but the barrel was located. If the gardai had found a key they could potentially have matched it up to the barrel, he said.
Detective Garda Cathal Connolly gave evidence of seizing the box of cards and two swipe readers from an office in the woman’s home.
The trial continues before Ms Justice Tara Burns, Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone.