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Monk's new robes Gerry Hutch looks more like man from Del Monte than feared crime godfather

"Gone is the jet-black hair, the white Irish skin, the tendency to dress in dark clothes. With a mane of silver hair and a thick grey beard to match he looks mature but more European than ever before and his skin is stained a deep brown from the sun. Like leather"

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Gerry Hutch arriving at the CCJ. Pic:Mark Condren 29.9.2021

Gerry Hutch arriving at the CCJ. Pic:Mark Condren 29.9.2021

Gerry Hutch arriving at the CCJ. Pic:Mark Condren 29.9.2021

It WAS probably one of the most memorable adverts from my childhood and I would wager that it was the reason that our home was always stocked with tins of pineapple. Such is the power of a good marketing campaign.

The man from Del Monte is long gone off our screens but as I sat in Court 11 on Wednesday it was probably just about the last image I would have expected to spring to mind.

Gerry Hutch, the legendary Godfather of Crime known as 'The Monk' was only short of the Panama hat as he strode into the Special Criminal Court fresh off a military aircraft and tanned like a man back from a 1980s' package holiday to Benidorm.

In light-coloured chino pants, a white open-necked shirt and a woven linen boating jacket Hutch looked for all the world like a dandy wandering into the dining hall on a seniors' cruise ship.

It took me a while to take him all in and although it is rude to stare I just couldn't help myself.

The Monk has changed so much that he is hardly recognisable. Gone is the jet-black hair, the white Irish skin, the tendency to dress in dark clothes. With a mane of silver hair and a thick grey beard to match he looks mature but more European than ever before and his skin is stained a deep brown from the sun. Like leather.

As he sat in the dock to be charged with the murder of David Byrne - a crime which comes with a mandatory life sentence on conviction - he glanced around the courtroom, filled with a handful of gardaí, his own legal team and reporters, like myself, there to record the occasion.

I looked at him again and there they were, the unmistakable steely eyes that have been described at various times as resembling those of a shark.

It was shortly before 8pm when 'The Monk' arrived in the court. It had been a hectic day. He'd woken in a cell in a Madrid prison where he has been staying, courtesy of the Spanish taxpayer, for the past month as he fought the European Arrest Warrant issued for him last March.

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Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch being arrested by police in Spain

Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch being arrested by police in Spain

Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch being arrested by police in Spain

He'd slipped that early net when he never showed up to take a return flight to Lanzarote from Malaga and spoiled the plans of the Guardia Civil. But they had persisted in the hunt for their quarry and eventually discovered that he was staying at a safe house in Fuengirola.

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They waited and they watched until he came out for a pizza and as he sat in a restaurant with a female companion they had pounced.

'The Monk' must have got a dreadful shock to find himself locked up in prison in Spain, his first time behind bars since the early 1980s, but he had dusted himself down and tried to fight his extradition to Ireland, a legal battle that failed for him on pretty much all fronts.

On Wednesday, it was finally time to come home so they had brought him to Madrid where the Irish were waiting and he was boarded on an Air Corps plane which flew him into Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel.

There he disembarked to be greeted by Detective Superintendent Paul Scott and his team who are six years investigating events that happened in the Regency Hotel in February 2016.

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A plane carrying Gerry Hutch lands at Casement Aerodrome (Niall Carson/PA)

A plane carrying Gerry Hutch lands at Casement Aerodrome (Niall Carson/PA)

A plane carrying Gerry Hutch lands at Casement Aerodrome (Niall Carson/PA)

He'd been brought by armed escort to the Central Criminal Courts of Justice, but despite the dramatics, 'The Monk' appeared calm and relaxed. He spoke only to confirm his name after his date of birth was read to the court, April 11, 1963.

The murder trial, the court heard will happen on October 15 and the book of evidence was served. It is a large file that was handed to 'The Monk' and then given onto his legal team headed up by Brendan Grehan SC. It contains all the details of the State's case against him.

The Monk has been fully vaccinated, the court heard, and took a Covid test on Wednesday which had come back negative. At least something was going in his favour, I thought as he watched the three-judge court intently and indicated that he may apply for bail.

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Gerry Hutch

Gerry Hutch

Gerry Hutch

As the proceedings came to an end I glanced at a social media site which has purported to be closely linked to 'The Monk' in the past.

Postings attacked Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Taoiseach Michael Martin for not bringing in mob boss Daniel Kinahan from Dubai in similar fashion. "Is it The Monk which is arriving into Baldonnel, or is it The Pope?" it quipped.

Despite the jokes and the confident demeanour of the man in the dock it seems to me that 'The Monk' may hang up his linen suit because it could be a long time before he sees sunshine again.

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