‘No hard evidence’ Gerry Hutch killed David Byrne as Dowdall branded ‘liar’, court hears

Brendan Grehan SC said the court was being asked to believe the testimony of "admitted liar" Jonathan Dowdall and convict the accused without forensic, phone or CCTV evidence.

The prosecution in the trial of Gerry Hutch has closed its case

Gerry Hutch (left) is on trial for the murder of David Byrne (right)

Sunday World

There is no "hard, reliable evidence" that Gerard "The Monk" Hutch murdered David Byrne in the gangland shooting at the Regency Hotel, his barrister has told the Special Criminal Court.

Brendan Grehan SC said the court was being asked to believe the testimony of "admitted liar" Jonathan Dowdall and convict the accused without forensic, phone or CCTV evidence.

He also told the three judges of the non-jury court Mr Hutch did not make a single unambiguous admission to being involved in the gangland shooting during bugged conversations with Dowdall.

Mr Grehan was delivering his closing speech to the non-jury court’s three judges in the final stages of the 13-week trial.

The prosecution has closed its case in the trial of Gerry Hutch (left) for the Regency hotel murder, for which Jonathan Dowdall turned state's witness.

Earlier, prosecutor Fiona Murphy SC said it was the state’s case that Mr Hutch was one of two armed men in tactical gear who shot David Byrne in a “brutal and callous attack” amid “complete carnage” at the Regency.

Mr Hutch (59), of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Kinahan gang member David Byrne (32) on February 5, 2016.

He was killed when five raiders, three disguised as ERU gardai with assault rifles stormed the Regency in north Dublin.

The attack at a boxing weigh-in fuelled the Kinahan-Hutch gang feud.

Jason Bonney (52) of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock and Paul Murphy (61) of Cherry Avenue, Swords, deny providing cars for the attack team.

Mr Bonney’s BMWX5 jeep and Paul Murphy’s Toyota Avensis taxi are both alleged to have been part of a convoy that parked up at GAA grounds near the Regency Hotel before the attack and transported the assassination team away afterwards.

Former Sinn Fein councillor Jonathan Dowdall had been charged with murder but instead pleaded guilty to facilitation, by helping to book a room at the Regency that was used by the raiders.

Mr Grehan said in the allegations against Mr Hutch, “all roads effectively lead back to Jonathan Dowdall.” Mr Hutch had been recorded in a bugged conversation with him as they travelled to Northern Ireland in Dowdall's jeep on March 7, 2016.

The tape was played to the court earlier in the trial and Dowdall had given evidence after turning state's witness. There were “two big lies” at the heart of Mr Dowdall’s evidence, Mr Grehan said- one was that Mr Hutch made “some kind of emotional confession” to the Regency murder in a meeting in a park days after.

The other was that when the keys to the hotel room that was later used by one of the raiders, Kevin "Flat Cap" Murray were handed over at Richmond Road on February 4, 2016, it was Gerard Hutch who “came out of the shadows” to collect them.

“The prosecution stands and falls on whether the court can accept the evidence of Mr Dowdall,” Mr Grehan said, and the court should approach his evidence with “great care and caution.”

Dowdall, who had been separately convicted of torturing a man in his garage was “patently a witness of bad character.”

He was a man with connections to “a whole range of violent dissident republicans” and was not a neutral witness but “tainted by self-interest.”

Mr Grehan said Dowdall went to gardai to “barter” his evidence in return for the dropping of his murder charge. Mr Grehan said the way this was done revealed Dowdall’s “manipulative character.”

He said gardai might have thought he was “giving us Gerard Hutch, his head on a plate” but in fact there did not seem to be any garda interest in following it up initially.

“I think a jury would be forgiven for thinking the lack of interest from the gardai suggests something amounting to a lack of belief in the witness or incredulity at what was suggested that Gerard Hutch had just come and confessed to him out of the blue,” Mr Grehan said.

Mr Grehan also said the prospect of the audio evidence coming out meant Dowdall could no longer live in Ireland because it’s “not just gangland concerns he’s bothered about, he’s in trouble with his Provo mates.”

The booking of the hotel room by Dowdall’s father was “deeply suspicious,” involving five people.

“In all I would submit it was a very bogey transaction,” Mr Grehan said.

Gerry Hutch (left) is on trial for the murder of David Byrne (right)

Dowdall’s account of the alleged key transfer meeting was “deeply flawed”, he said.

Dowdall maintained his father handed over the keys to Gerard Hutch and in evidence had “talked up” his father’s willingness to back this account up. However, despite being able to corroborate his son’s account, Patrick Hutch “never materialised” as a witness.

Dowdall had access to the prosecution case including reports stating his father’s phone connected to a mobile cell at Richmond Road on February 4, Mr Grehan said.

Dowdall had said in evidence he was not 100pc sure whether the “confession” meeting was on February 8 or 7, but “doubled down” on the time being between 11am and 12pm.

When he was confronted with the phone location analysis evidence showing the meeting was an “impossibility” on the eighth, with a connection to a cell covering the park at a different time on the seventh, he said “if I’m a little bit off on the time, it was a long time ago.”

“So the only detail he can be caught out on is dismissed out of hand,” Mr Grehan said.

On the audio evidence, Mr Grehan said he was not going to argue with the prosecution’s proposition that the “three yokes” being discussed on the tape were the AK47s from the Regency but he was also not going to “make any concessions” about it.

Mr Grehan said the prosecution had suggested a conversation on the audio about Kevin Murray being paid €50,000 “connected Mr Hutch to Flat Cap.” This was because Mr Hutch was asked a question and “did not engage” which was “somehow indicative of guilt.” This did not accord with the presumption of innocence, Mr Grehan said.

“There’s no single, unambiguous admission to the murder of David Byrne at the Regency by Gerard Hutch,” Mr Grehan said. Instead the prosecution had suggested there were “tacit” admissions.

There was not a single question asked of Mr Hutch on the tape that elicits a single unambiguous answer, he said.

“There’s a lot said that arguably equally amount to Mr Hutch getting involved after the Regency occurred to try to deal with the fallout of the Regency attack, including the guns being thrown up north” he said.

“There are arguably things said and discussed with Mr Dowdall which could suggest serious criminality on the part of Gerard Hutch, but he hasn’t been charged with any conspiracies or doing any other things,” Mr Grehan said.

The prosecution had “nailed their colours to the mast” by bringing a murder charge.

He suggested that rather than Dowdall’s testimony strengthening the audio evidence, the comments he made about it in fact undermined its significance. It was “extraordinary” that Mr Hutch would be referring to the “six people” at the Regency if he had confessed to his own intimate involvement.

Mr Hutch’s “massive statement” comment about the guns could be seen as an “objective comment” based on media reports, he said.

Similarly, Mr Grehan asked why Mr Hutch on the tape uses the word “they” to refer to those involved instead of “we” if he had confessed to Dowdall.

It was an unguarded conversation with a confidante, he said, and such language contradicted suggestions of any admissions.

Mr Grehan said in all the hours of unguarded conversation between Mr Hutch and Dowdall on March 7, the key transfer and meeting in the park were never referenced.

Dowdall was an “admitted liar and perjurer” who had told the court “so many lies it would take days to enumerate them,” Mr Grehan said. He was a “confident, convincing, practiced liar” whose instinct was to lie and it was “OK if it was out of necessity” or if there was no recording of it.

“He’s a bit like the famous cartoon character who said I didn’t do it, nobody saw me do it, you can’t prove anything,” Mr Grehan said. “He clearly believes he can lie his way out of any situation.”

Dowdall's appearance on Liveline after his home was raided to “brazen it out” and claim the garda search was politically motivated showed him to be an “emboldened liar.”

“This is a case where in terms of the evidence against Mr Hutch, there are no forensics, no phone records, no CCTV of him on February 5,” Mr Grehan said.

“There’s no evidence he was even in the country on February 5, never mind in the Regency, apart from Jonathan Dowdall’s suggestion.

“The audio is really little more than a commentary on events already in the public domain.”

“There are quite simply no iron-clad admissions that anyone can grab onto to say ‘there it is, there is the case against Mr Hutch’.”

It was obvious “who the hawk is” on the tape despite what the prosecution said about Mr Hutch being “in control,” Mr Grehan said.

“If the court can’t believe Jonathan Dowdall on the two big lies then it can’t believe him on anything else he has to say about Gerard Hutch.” “The court can’t be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt in the absence of hard reliable evidence of his guilt on the charge before the court.”

Referring to the audio evidence and Dowdall’s testimony, Mr Grehan said the prosecution had sought to ride two horses by trying to marry them together but had fallen between both.

The prosecution had “simply not made out the case that the court can be satisfied on the guilt of Gerard Hutch on the charge they have chosen to bring against him.”

Earlier, Ms Murphy said the prosecution’s case was that Gerard Hutch was one of the three men who entered the Regency Hotel “disguised and covered almost entirely in tactical gear”. One shot David Byrne and moved on while another took aim and shot him again while he was “scrambling on the floor” before firing again.

“They were part of a six-man team at the Regency Hotel that committed the murder of David Byrne,” she said.

“It is the prosecution’s case that Gerard Hutch was one of the two men that discharged firearms in the direction of David Byrne” in what was a “brutal and callous attack”, she said.

Ms Murphy described the “horrific events that unfolded over the next couple of minutes” as “complete carnage.”

She said the prosecution would say cars “belonging to and used” by Mr Murphy and Mr Bonney were in a convoy of six vehicles that “facilitated the escape of the six men involved in the criminal enterprise at the Regency that day.”

Ms Murphy said it was accepted that prosecution witness Jonathan Dowdall was a man with a “serious conviction” for a “disgusting offence” and was a man who admitted he told lies in the past.

“Those aren’t things that would endear him to you but that does not mean that you should not believe him,” she said.

Dowdall had entered his plea to the facilitation charge before his statement was taken and he could have chosen to “walk away” but he did not, she said.

Ms Murphy said on the surveillance tape, it was clear that Mr Hutch was talking about the AK47s used in the Regency and that he had “complete control and authority” of them. She said it appeared the guns were “the gift of Gerard Hutch to give” republicans in the north, and were his to “do with as he wishes.”

She said Mr Hutch was talking about the movement of the weapons at a crucial time in which they ultimately ended up in transit and seized by gardai from IRA man Shane Rowan just two days later.

Ms Murphy said Mr Hutch never made any denial or pushback to Dowdall’s suggestions on the tape that Mr Hutch was “centrally involved” in the Regency attack. She said his responses to Mr Dowdall showed at worst a tacit acceptance of Mr Hutch’s central involvement in the Regency, but in truth a “expression of pride.” What was absent was any denial, she said.

She said on the tape, Mr Hutch had made "tacit admissions." Ms Murphy said Mr Hutch “went and held up a building as one of three men in tactical gear” and he was “now arranging for the onward transport of the items that were used.”

She said the evidence "shows beyond reasonable doubt that he was one of the three men dressed in tactical gear at the Regency on the day of the shooting of David Byrne and should be convicted of the offence of murder."

Alibi witnesses gave evidence on Mr Bonney’s behalf, telling the court that they had seen his now-deceased father Wiiliam Bonney driving the BMWX5 on the day.

The prosecution called another witness in rebuttal, who stated that William Bonney was at a family lunch at the time.

Barristers for Mr Bonney and Mr Murphy have yet to deliver their closing speeches. The trial continues before Ms Justice Tara Burns, Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone.

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