Undercover garda saw Gerry Hutch meeting IRA member caught transporting Regency hotel AK-47s

IRA man Shane Rowan was intercepted in Co Meath as he travelled north with the three assault rifles in the boot of his car

Evidence was being given by National Surveillance Unit gardai today in the trial of Gerard Hutch and two other men charged over the Regency shooting

Andrew PhelanSunday World

An undercover garda saw murder accused Gerard “The Monk” Hutch meeting an IRA member two weeks before the man was caught transporting the AK-47s that had been used in the Regency hotel shooting, the Special Criminal Court heard.

The officer said he was carrying out a covert surveillance operation after the gangland attack when he saw Mr Hutch, former Sinn Fein councillor Jonathan Dowdall and IRA man Shane Rowan go into a house in Co Donegal.

Two weeks later, Rowan was intercepted in Co Meath as he travelled north with the three assault rifles in the boot of his car. The court also heard surveillance unit gardai saw Mr Hutch’s brother Patsy Hutch in a car with Rowan in Dublin 34 minutes before the gun seizure.

Evidence was being given by National Surveillance Unit gardai today in the trial of Gerard Hutch and two other men charged over the Regency shooting.

David Byrne (33), a Kinahan gang member, was shot dead when three assault rifle-wielding masked gunmen, disguised as ERU gardai, stormed the hotel 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 denies murdering Mr Byrne. Paul Murphy (59) of Cherry Avenue, Swords and Jason Bonney (50) of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, deny facilitating the murder by providing the criminal organisation that carried it out with access to vehicles.

Today, the three judges of the non-jury court granted a prosecution application for surveillance unit gardai to give evidence anonymously, identified only by assigned initials.

Defence lawyers had objected.

Several gardai today gave evidence of events they observed on February 20, 2016. The prosecution alleges on this date, Jonathan Dowdall and Gerard Hutch travelled north to a meeting with republicans in the aftermath of the Regency attack.

Dowdall was jailed earlier this month for helping the perpetrators of the Regency attack by booking a room in the hotel for them. Rowan was jailed in July 2016 for IRA membership and possession of the guns.

Garda "CI" told the court he was on duty in Lifford, Co Donegal at 10.50am on February 20, 2016 when he saw a dark grey Toyota Landcruiser travelling west in the direction of Killygordon. The court previously heard this jeep was Dowdall's. It went into the village and took a right turn into the Forest Park housing estate. He saw a maroon Toyota Corolla travelling in front of the Landcruiser. It pulled in to the right hand side and the Landruiser moved past the Corolla on its left hand side.

They were continuously moving until his observations ceased.

In cross-examnation, he told Brendan Grehan SC, for Mr Hutch, that he was detailed as part of an operation on the day. Asked what brought him to Killygordon, he said the operation continued “my movements led me to that area.”

He told Mr Grehan he was aware the Landcruiser had left Dublin earlier that day and travelled through Northern Ireland to get to Killygordon.

He got this information through the radio system from other gardai.

Mr Grehan asked if he was aware if there was a device on the landcruiser.

“I would like to claim privilege on that,” he said.

Mr Grehan said he would be challenging the privilege asserted.

Gda CI said he carried out prior duties in the investigation and could not recall the date but it was after the Regency shooting.

Garda "D" said he was on duty in Clontarf at 7.35am that morning when he saw Jonathan Dowdall’s Landcruiser jeep driving on the Coast Road, past the Yacht pub. It pulled into a housing complex called The Court, turned around and faced out onto the Coast Road with the lights off.

A couple of moments later, he said, the Landcruiser left the complex and went back onto the Coast Road, turning left into another housing complex. It remained there until 7.44am and came out and headed toward the Castle Avenue junction. He could see the driver was Jonathan Dowdall and could see a passenger in the jeep but could not identify who it was.

In cross-examination, Gda D told Mr Grehan he had no other interaction with the Landcruiser after that. He was aware that it then travelled north on the M1 and through the north before going to Killygordon. He knew it went up to the border and was not aware if any other gardai actually saw it in Northern Ireland.

He said he began working on the investigation after the Regency attack.

Garda “L” said on the same day, February 20, 2016, he was on duty in Donegal when he saw Shane Rowan exit a house at Forest Park, Killygordon at 4.15pm. He saw Rowan speak to the occupants of a parked silver Renault Megane, asking them to move.

At 4.35pm, a silver Volkswagen Passat entered Forest Park with a named man driving and Jonathan Dowdall and Gerard Hutch were passengers, he said. It entered the vacated parking spot and Gerard Hutch left and got into the passenger side of Jonathan Dowdall’s Landcruiser.

Mr Dowdall and the third man went into the house, the garda said. At 4.38pm, the third man exited the house and beckoned Gerard Hutch in, he continued.

At 5.05pm, Dowdall, Mr Hutch and the third man all left the house and walked in the direction of the Landcruiser.

Dowdall was carrying a small black holdall bag with orange trim which he placed in the rear of the jeep. Mr Hutch got into the passenger side and Dowdall got into the driver’s seat.

The third man had a conversation with Mr Hutch at the side of the jeep. Rowan left the house and began to walk toward the Landcruiser but stopped and returned to the house.

At 5.10pm, the third man walked from the jeep to the silver Audi A4 that was parked nearby and left in it. The Landcruiser also left. Some 10 minutes later, Rowan got into the Passat and left.

The garda took photos of Dowdall and Mr Hutch at the Landcruiser and these were shown to the court.

In cross-examination, he told Mr Grehan he knew Mr Hutch, Dowdall, the third man and Rowan before this date, through his work as a garda investigating crime.

Asked if he was in a vehicle, Gda L told Mr Grehan he was claiming privilege on that. Asked if gardai ascertained what was in the holdall bag, he said “not to my knowledge.” He did not leave the jurisdiction that day.

Garda “AG” gave evidence of surveillance carried out on three dates. The first, on February 28, was at Jonathan Dowdall’s Navan Road house, when he saw a scooter arrive at 11.56am. Dowdall’s Landcruiser left with a male driver and passenger at 12.16pm, travelling to his office at Park House, Blackhorse Avenue. It returned to Dowdall’s house at 12.36pm.

A man left on the scooter at 1.36pm.

The next date was March 7, 2016, the date Dowdall allegedly went north with Mr Hutch for a second meeting.

The same garda, AG, said he saw Dowdall driving his Landcruiser from his home that afternoon, going to Kealy’s pub near the airport. As it left he saw another male on board and he followed it onto the M1, to the Drogheda toll bridge. He saw the occupants were Dowdall and Mr Hutch, who had a dark beanie hat pulled tight to eye level.

The Landcruiser crossed the border at the Carrickdale Hotel, Co Louth at 3.10pm and he had no further observation of it.

At 11.36pm that evening, Gda AG was in Ardee Village and saw the Landcruiser coming back from the Monaghan side, driven by Dowdall and with Mr Hutch as passenger, still wearing the beanie hat. The jeep went towards the M1.

He saw a black BMW parking at Victoria Road, Clontarf at 12.35pm going into the next morning.

The third date Gda AG gave evidence of was March 9, 2016, the day the court earlier heard Shane Rowan was caught travelling north in Co Meath, transporting the AK47s that had been used in the Regency shooting.

Earlier that day, at 4.51pm, Gda AG said he saw a grey Toyota Yaris being driven by Paddy Hutch at 4.51pm at Blunden Drive, Coolock. The Yaris was in convoy with a Vauxhall driven by Rowan. The garda said he knew both men. The cars travelled left onto the Malahide Road and across to Malahide Road Industrial Estate. At 5.03pm, he said, he saw Paddy Hutch driving the Yaris accompanied by Rowan who was in the front passenger seat.

The Yaris turned drove left on Greencastle Road and left onto the Malahide Road, outbound with both still on board, he said.

He saw it go left at Newtown Road and a short time later saw it again in the industrial estate, where he was aware a Vauxhall was parked in a cul de sac. At 6.16pm, Gda AG saw the Yaris driven by Paddy Hutch and still accompanied by Rowan, he said. It drove into Malahide Road retail park and did a lap of Woodies’ carpark, before parking. It left at 6.23pm, still with Paddy Hutch and Rowan on board and turned left at McDonald’s, he continued.

At 6.30pm, Gda AG saw Rowan in the Vauxhall, coming from the Greencastle Parade area, turning left at Greencastle Road and stopping at the traffic lights. He noticed the Yaris with Paddy Hutch pulled up alongside Rowan’s car. The Yaris window was open and “I got the impression that there was a conversation” between the cars before the light went green.

The Yaris went right and the Vauxhall went left at 6.31pm

The court heard 34 minutes later, Rowan was stopped in the Vauxhall in Co Meath with the three AK47s.

In cross-examination, Gda AG told Mr Grehan he went three miles over the border in the March 7 surveillance but turned back as he had no authority in the north. The Landcruiser “drifted ahead” and he did not see it after that, he said.

Asked if it was “happenstance” that he was in Ardee as the jeep returned later, he said he was there as part of a surveillance operation.

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

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