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No evidence Gerry Hutch ‘confessed’ to Regency murder other than Jonathan Dowdall’s ‘say so’, court told

A detective sergeant also accepted there was not a ‘scintilla’ of evidence other than Dowdall’s word

Hutch and Dowdall

Andrew PhelanSunday World

Gardai have no evidence that Gerard Hutch “effectively confessed” to the Regency Hotel murder other than the “say so” of former Sinn Fein councillor Jonathan Dowdall, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

A detective sergeant also accepted there was not a “scintilla” of evidence other than Dowdall’s word that Mr Hutch was handed the keys of a room at the hotel that was to be used by one of the attackers.

Defence barrister Brendan Grehan SC was today continuing to challenge evidence Dowdall is due to give in Mr Hutch’s trial for the murder of David Byrne at the Regency in 2016.

Dowdall had also been accused of murdering David Byrne, but before the trial began, he instead admitted helping the killers and was jailed for four years.

Mr Byrne (33), a Kinahan gang member, was shot dead on February 5, 2016 after five armed raiders, three wielding assault rifles and disguised as ERU gardai, stormed the Regency in north Dublin. The attack on a boxing weigh-in event intensified a bloody feud between the Kinahan and Hutch crime gangs.

Mr Hutch (59), of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin, denies the murder. Also on trial are Paul Murphy (61) of Cherry Avenue, Swords and Jason Bonney (51) of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, Dublin who deny helping the perpetrators by providing cars.

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 SC today continued his challenge to the admissibility of evidence to be given by Dowdall.

Detective Sergeant Patrick O’Toole told the court of three meetings he had with Dowdall this year after he came forward with new information about the Regency attack.

A statement was then taken from Dowdall on September 23, the court heard.

Det Sgt O’Toole told Mr Grehan that Dowdall had been charged with murder after a file recommending the charge was sent to the DPP. At that point there was evidence pointing to a prima facie case against him, he said.

This was in relation to the booking of the room and the conversations he had with Dowdall in the jeep.

Mr Grehan asked him if anything had changed the garda’s view other than the fact that Dowdall had agreed to give a statement and evidence.

“My understanding is when he came forward he put context to the conversations” in the jeep, Det Sgt O’Toole said.

There were explanations in relation to those conversations and new evidence was added to what was there before, he said.

The explanation in general terms was that Dowdall’s intention prior to the murder and after it was to help people mediate to prevent further persons being killed, Det Sgt O’Toole said.

Mr Grehan asked him what Dowdall had told him about what he had said on the audio tapes from the jeep.

“Some of that was bravado,” Det Sgt O’Toole said, adding that Dowdall had also been on medication at the time.

Mr Grehan asked if Dowdall was saying he had been “basically telling lies in relation to any bit that implicated him in criminality.”

“He was acting up to Gerry and acting the hard man,” Det Sgt O’Toole said.

He agreed that Dowdall was saying he had been “making things up.”

Dowdall had alleged Mr Hutch met him in a park in Whitehall days after the Regency shooting. He alleged Mr Hutch asked him to use his influence with republican connections to “basically quell the feud”, Mr Grehan said.

Det Sgt O’Toole said after Dowdall’s information, gardai had checked things such as CCTV from around Gerard Hutch’s house in relation to a Honda Legend that he had mentioned.

Dowdall’s situation had been that he and his family were under threat and he felt he had no option but to leave the country, Det Sgt O’Toole said.

In relation to Dowdall’s allegation that his father Patrick handed key cards for a room at the Regency over to Gerard Hutch the night before the attack, Det Sgt O’Toole said they were unable to check this with CCTV from a garage at Richmond Road as it was more than six years later.

“There isn’t a scintilla of other evidence to support that,” Mr Grehan said.

Det Sgt O’Toole said Dowdall’s father was in the car at the time but accepted he had not made any other statements.

Mr Grehan repeated that there "isn't a scintilla" of other evidence.

"No," Det Sgt O'Toole said, adding that it would be Dowdall's testimony that he was present in the car when the cards were handed over to Mr Hutch.

Dowdall had claimed he met Mr Hutch in the park after the publication of a Sunday World article about the Regency attack and “Mr Hutch had effectively confessed to murder to him," Mr Grehan said.

“Is there any other evidence to support the allegation that that happened other than Mr Dowdall’s say so?” he asked.

“No,” Det Sgt O’Toole replied.

Later, Detective Garda Cathal Connolly was cross-examined by Mr Grehan about notes he took at the garda meetings with Dowdall.

On May 18, Det Gda Connolly said Dowdall was “emotional and upset” and came out with a “stream of consciousness,” mentioning dozens of names and “serious criminal things.”

Dowdall was already aware of the audio recording of his journey north with Mr Hutch on March 7, 2016. He spoke about “bullshit about explosives” and his “bravado” on the tape. He mentioned “Gately, Patsy, Patrick and Flat Cap.” Det Gda Connolly said these were “names of individuals (Dowdall) believed were on the job.”

Det Gda Connolly said Dowdall had told the gardai at the end of that meeting: “Lads, whether you believe me or not, I’ll get into the box to defend myself. I had nothing to do with this.”

During a meeting on July 4, gardai put to Dowdall some of what he had said in his bugged conversation with Mr Hutch. Reading these comments back, Mr Grehan noted that Dowdall had said “I’m trying to tell him what I think he wants to hear” and that he was trying to make himself out to be something he wasn’t.

He said he had wanted Mr Hutch to trust him and said he talked a lot when he was nervous and uncomfortable. He said he was “talking rubbish,” and repeating himself.

He said he was "disgusted and ashamed of myself for how I was acting and what I was saying."

Mr Grehan said Dowdall “explains away” what was attributed to him.

On a reference to putting a bomb under a caravan in Wexford, Dowdall said he never met a man who was mentioned and it was “all nonsense.”

Mr Grehan said Dowdall was also noted as explaining a comment he made to Mr Hutch about the “particular yokes that was used.”

The court has previously heard the prosecution maintains this is a reference to the AK-47s used in the Regency attack.

Mr Dowdall was noted as saying “I never paid any attention to guns” but then he thought from the media that it was a big deal

“I knew nothing about gun types, I didn’t even know a gun could be traced,” he said.

In references to the “six people” not knowing who they were, Dowdall said he was referring to the media and his comments also “show I haven’t got a clue who was there other than what I was told after by GH and Patsy.”

Dowdall was noted as saying GH - meaning Gerard Hutch - was “lying too because they all know who each other is because they are all family members and friends and they all met in Buckingham Village that day.”

Det Gda Connolly said his understanding was the six people referenced were “logistical people.”

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

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