'vehicles of interest' | 

Taxi man whose cab was allegedly involved in Regency Hotel murder claims car was ‘cloned’

Paul Murphy told the court he had bought the Toyota Avensis from the late Eddie Hutch, who was a brother of co-accused Gerard “The Monk” Hutch

Gerry Hutch (L) and the late David Byrne who was shot dead in the Regency attack (R)

Paul Murphy (59) PIC: Collins Courts

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

Andrew PhelanSunday World

A TAXI DRIVER whose cab was allegedly involved in the Regency Hotel shooting told investigating gardai he believed the car might have been “cloned”, the Special Criminal Court heard.

Paul Murphy told gardai he knew nothing about the murder of David Byrne before raising the possibility that the taxi he was driving at the time was cloned.

He said he had bought the Toyota Avensis from the late Eddie Hutch, who was a brother of co-accused Gerard “The Monk” Hutch.

Evidence of Mr Murphy's statements and garda interviews was being heard at the Special Criminal Court today, where he is on trial along with Gerard Hutch and another man, Paul Bonney over the 2016 Regency shooting.

While Mr Hutch is charged with 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 the interview evidence.

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.

Paul Murphy (59) PIC: Collins Courts

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 (59) of Cherry Avenue, Swords and Mr Bonney (50) of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, deny the charges against them.

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

However, the prosecution is alleging Mr Bonney and 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.

Now-retired detective garda Alan Crummey said on February 21, 2016, he was assigned to the Regency murder investigation team when he was tasked to interview a man from Swords in connection with a Toyota Avensis taxi. The man was the owner of that taxi’s plate and was also the registered owner of the car for insurance purposes.

Arising from this, he went to Mr Murphy's home address on February 22, 2016 and took a statement from him without caution.

In the statement, Mr Murphy said he had worked as a taxi driver for around 20 years and he had rented a plate from the man from Swords. Mr Murphy had bought the gold-green Toyota Avensis which gardai had seized from him but this man was the registered owner.

Mr Murphy told gardai he normally worked on the north side of Dublin and said he remembered starting work at 10 to 1.30am on February 5. He got seven to nine jobs, none from the radio, that day. They were up and down to “the likes of Sheriff Street and back”. He said the receipts were more than likely in the car door. He recalled one job when he took a woman and man “not from Dublin but with refined Irish accents” from Gardiner Street to the Howth Road.

He went down Amiens Street and the North Strand, he said, and stopped at the Maxol service station on the Howth Road. He got a coffee and sandwich which he ate when he stopped at the Beachcomber pub in Killester. He was there for around 10 to 15 minutes, he said, and he drove up Collins Avenue and down the Malahide Road back into town via Fairview, Ballybough and the North Circular Road.

He said he heard about the Regency shooting on the radio on the 3 o’clock news and as he went home, he passed the hotel and could see “the police all over the place.”

He said he had no involvement in the boxing world and did not know anything that went on in the Regency that day. He told gardai he knew Eddie Hutch and was born in the same area but was not a friend.

He said other taxi drivers were nervous about working at a taxi base on Parnell Street because of “the association with Neddie.”

Mr Murphy said he was the only one driving the Avensis on February 5.

On March 3, Mr Murphy made an additional statement after contacting gardai to let them know that his car may have been cloned. Mr Crummey said he met him at Croke Park Hotel and this time the accused was cautioned.

Mr Murphy said he thought the Avensis could have been cloned because he recently got two fines - one for speeding and another for littering by throwing a cigarette butt out a car window.

He said he was not inclined to speed for his job, and although he smoked he never threw stuff out the window and never littered.

“It was possible that it was me on both occasions but I don’t think so,” he said.

He explained the fines had been sent to his car's registered owner and then sent on to Mr Murphy.

He said he was asked if he had any information on the shooting at the Regency and “no is the answer.”

Mr Murphy gave a further statement at the same hotel on March 9, again under caution. He was shown a copy of the taxi receipt roll from 10.42am to 4.22pm on February 5.

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 could not recall the journeys except for a fare at 10.50am and the couple he said he picked up in Gardiner Street at 1.14pm. The journey to Howth Road was 1.3km and the fare was €7.60.

Two phones taken from his car were presented and he said he had used one once and the other for a day or so.

In cross-examination, Bernard Condon SC, for Mr Murphy said it "must have come up" in briefing that the Avensis had been seized prior to Det Gda Crummey being given the job of taking Mr Murphy';s first statement. Mr Crummey said he did not recall.

Mr Condon said his client was cautioned before the second statement and he asked Mr Crummey if there was a discussion about why he had not been cautioned previously.

He replied that this was not discussed, and said "at that stage I assumed Mr Murphy was a possible suspect."

Mr Condon said Mr Murphy had been in that category at the first statement but he was not cautioned.

At 4.30pm, on May 30, 2016, Det Gda Crummey met Paul Murphy by appointment at Travel Lodge Hotel, Swords. He was arrested for “the murder with a firearm” of David Byrne at the Regency and brought to Ballymun garda station.

Mr Murphy was interviewed at 9.22pm that evening with his solicitor Yvonne Bambury present.

Garda James Duffy gave evidence as the memo of that interview was read out by prosecutor Sean Gillane SC.

The court heard in the interview, Mr Murphy said he was from Sean McDermott Street in the north inner city and had moved to Avondale House. He worked in the army and at jobs including a shop and security before becoming a taxi driver, he said.

Most recently, from 2013 to February 2016, he had rented a plate from the man from Swords. That man was registered owner for convenience under new regulations, he said.

Mr Murphy said he bought the Avensis from Eddie “Neddie” Hutch, who “done a deal” for him. He was paying Eddie Hutch €175 per week for the car as a hire purchase.

He confirmed to the gardai that this was the Eddie Hutch who had “recently passed on” and he and his brothers used to buy cars and sell them on.

Mr Murphy was asked if he had been told why the Avensis was seized from outside his house by gardai on February 19.

“They said it was involved in a crime or something,” he said.

Mr Murphy said he was working from a taxi base in Parnell Street. He worked from the radio and picking up fares on the street in the Dublin 1, 3 and 9 area.

He would see Eddie Hutch at the taxi “shop” and pay him for the car in cash. Eddie Hutch and a nephew, Jonathan worked out of the same base.

He knew Eddie Hutch from driving and from when he was “a young fella”, he said.

The court heard there were further interviews on June 1 and at 6.45pm on June 2 but there was nothing of any evidential value in these.

Earlier, the court heard further evidence from members of the garda National Surveillance Unit.

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

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