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Two faces of Jonathan Dowdall as he gave evidence in Gerry Hutch murder trial

“You’re callin’ me a liar,” he storms from the box. “I’m not going over this again…I never committed a crime in me life… I try to help people in the inner city. I had to lie to protect my family… My life is destroyed… I don’t care if I die… I’d nothing to do with any murder… I’m here, aren’t I?”

Jonathan Dowdall says he had no part in the Regency attack

Nicola TallantSunday World

Two faces of Jonathan Dowdall appeared in the Special Criminal Court this week and while one is a haunting voice from his past, the other is the combative personality that sits in the witness box.

Dowdall is a complex character. Sulking and monosyllabic - like a petulant teenager – when he realises he has to answer a simple question; articulate and emotional when he takes opportunities to tell the Court that he is an honest hard-working man who was only acting like a good Samaritan when he was so cruelly tricked by the Hutch gang.

Jonathan Dowdall was a politician and a member of Sinn Féin, and there are times that you can’t help wondering if he was put through the cult-like training many Republican paramilitaries are rumoured to have undergone before their acceptance in the movement.

He is small, but full of fight and his defensive stance comes to the fore constantly during his cross examination by Senior Counsel Brendan Grehan, who represents Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch.

“You’re callin’ me a liar,” he storms from the box. “I’m not going over this again…I never committed a crime in me life… I try to help people in the inner city. I had to lie to protect my family… My life is destroyed… I don’t care if I die… I’d nothing to do with any murder… I’m here, aren’t I?”

15/07/22 Jonathan Dowdall, 44, and from the Navan Road in Dublin is charged with murdering 33-year-old David Byrne at the hotel on 5 February 2016.leaving the special criminal court in Dublin, with father Patrick Dowdall who is served with charges in facilitating the murder.. Pic Collins Courts

Long monologues pepper his evidence, advantageously thrown in at any point, no matter the subject matter. He rarely raises his eyes, except when addressing the three Judges, Justice Tara Burns, Justice Sarah Berkeley and Justice Grainne Malone who will sit in judgement over his performance and the other evidence the State has provided against Hutch.

“Can I go to the loo, your honour?” he has asked more than once, despite being told repeatedly he can have a break whenever it is required.

Dowdall on screen, the one who is arrested in May 2016 months after his house was raided and a USB stick was found showing him torturing and water-boarding a man who answered a Done Deal advert to buy his motorbike, is a very similar character to the one who sits giving evidence.

In the taped interviews, he lies repeatedly to gardaí and regularly challenges them on why they are ‘destroying’ his life and his business.

He is an innocent man, he tells them, a good guy who just tries to show young guys there is a better way to get a fancy car than drug dealing.

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Jonathan Dowdall giving evidence in the trial of Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch (third left) for the murder of David Byrne© PA

The Jonathan Dowdall who appears in the witness box insists that it was during this arrest and interview that the penny finally dropped that he had been implicated in the Regency attack, through a complex arrangement to rent a room at the hotel the night before David Byrne was shot dead.

Is it believable that he could have gone four months without ever questioning the peculiar request by Patsy Hutch to secure the room and then meet a stranger to hand over the key card?

“We can tell you that we can connect you with the murder because a man who stayed in the room and had the room key was implicated in the shooting. What have you got to say about that?” the garda asks him.

“You need to talk to my father,” says an animated Dowdall, without so much as taking an instant to let the revelation sink in.

“My da lives in our house and he has girlfriends. You’d want to be stupid to use your own cards and stuff if you were booking a hotel room – I’d no hand, act or part in the Regency murder.”

Within seconds, he tells the Garda officers that he drives by the Regency Hotel about 20 times a day for work, despite previously insisting he hadn’t been near it for five years. But, he tells them, he doesn’t understand their question about his phone pinging off a mast there on the night – he doesn’t remember.

In the box, the 2022 Jonathan Dowdall nods in agreement with his old self. “I was under threat. I couldn’t tell the truth back then,” he says.

On screen, Dowdall rants about his life being destroyed. He blames gardaí, the media and an anonymous Twitter site where he was named as the man who organised the Regency for a fee of €250,000.

In the box, the real-life Dowdall points fingers too; at Brendan Grehan who, he says, is doing his best to destroy him and paint him as a liar; at the Hutches who, he says he feared; at the media who keep linking him to Sinn Féin and its leader Mary Lou McDonald, and at an anonymous Twitter site that has posted pictures of his family.

There is no doubt but Dowdall’s life is under critical threat after he turned State Witness and agreed to give evidence against his former neighbour Hutch.

In gangland terms he is a ‘rat’ and that is an unforgivable crime. But the Dowdall in the box, with all the time he has had to reflect on his actions back in 2016 and his involvement in a so-called ‘mediation’ process between the Kinahan organisation and the Hutches bears no blame for how things have turned out himself. “

“This is why nobody comes in and gives evidence, your honour,” the witness tells the court. “Everything I said would happen has happened.”

In the dock, Gerry Hutch watches intently as the man who claims he confessed to him that he shot David Byrne completes his fifth day under cross examination. The stakes couldn’t be higher as he faces a life sentence in prison if found guilty.

The trial continues.

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