Jonathan Dowdall denies plotting ‘mass murder’ with Gerry Hutch in bugged conversations

Dowdall told Mr Hutch’s barrister he had never carried out an explosives demonstration for Northern republicans and insisted everything he was heard speaking about on the garda surveillance tapes came from “films and telly.”

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of former Sinn Fein councillor Jonathan Dowdall being cross examined by Mr Hutch's defence barrister, Brendan Grehan SC© PA

Andrew PhelanSunday World

Former Sinn Fein councillor Jonathan Dowdall has denied being a bomb-making expert or planning “mass murder” in bugged conversations with Regency Hotel shooting accused Gerard Hutch.

Dowdall told Mr Hutch’s barrister he had never carried out an explosives demonstration for Northern republicans and insisted everything he was heard speaking about on the garda surveillance tapes came from “films and telly.”

The ex politician was giving evidence for a fifth day in the trial of Mr Hutch for the gangland murder of David Byrne at the Regency.

Dowdall (44) began testifying at the Special Criminal Court last week, when he alleged that Mr Hutch confessed that he and another man shot Mr Byrne.

The father of three was killed when five raiders, three disguised as ERU gardai with assault rifles along with an armed man in a flat cap and another gunman dressed as a woman stormed the hotel.

The attack at a boxing weigh-in on February 5, 2016 fuelled the Kinahan-Hutch gang feud.

Mr Hutch (59), of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin, has pleaded not guilty to the murder.

Dowdall had also been charged Mr Byrne’s murder but before the trial started he instead pleaded guilty to facilitating the killing, by helping to book a room in the Regency for use by the attackers.

His murder charge was withdrawn by the prosecution and he turned State’s witness.

15/07/22Jonathan Dowdall leaving the Special Criminal Court in Dublin, with father Patrick Dowdall who is served with charges in facilitating the murder..Pic Collins Courts

The court has already heard tapes of recorded surveillance conversation between Dowdall and Mr Hutch as the pair drove north on March 7, 2016, weeks after the Regency murder.

Mr Grehan put it to Mr Dowdall today that after an alleged conversation in a park, Mr Hutch’s “confession,” was something that “never comes up again.”

Dowdall replied that Mr Hutch had told him on March 20 that “he may go to Australia and he said every now and again you have to sharpen the tools yourself.”

Mr Grehan said these were utterances that were not recorded.

“He never once told me again that he shot David Byrne but he did confirm again that it was them at the hotel,” Dowdall said.

Brendan Grehan SC, counsel for Gerry Hutch, arrives at the Special Criminal Court before cross-examining state's witness Jonathan Dowdall. Photo: Collins Courts

Mr Grehan asked how the subject never came up again on the 10 hours of audio surveillance from their trip north on March 7, 2016.

“He didn’t bring it up,” Dowdall said.

He told Mr Grehan that it was brought up about the “three yokes” alleged to have referred to the AK-47s used in the Regency attack, and there was a reference to “it was yous” at the hotel.

“Why would I repeat it back to him?” he asked Mr Grehan.

“You repeat loads of things,” Mr Grehan said.

“He told me what he told me,” Dowdall said. “It’s not going to change.”

Mr Grehan put it to Dowdall he had been “caught on the tape basically planning mass murder.”

“That is ridiculous,” Dowdall replied.

Mr Grehan asked if he had not been caught talking about planting a bomb. Dowdall replied that it was "terrible talk" but it was nonsense, “hypothetical”, no steps were ever taken and it “didn’t happen.”

Mr Grehan said there was talk about “planning to have six people assassinated.” “I don’t even know their names,” Dowdall said. Mr Grehan asked if he had discussed “getting people whacked.” “So is your client,” he replied. “It’s nonsense.”

He denied he was “advising” Mr Hutch.

Asked about a man called “Wee,” Dowdall’s republican contact on trips north, he said he did not know “Wee” well and it was ex IRA man Pearse McAuley who told him to speak to him.

He had started going north at the request of Gerard Hutch’s brother Patsy “because of certain things that were happening” in early 2016.

Mr Hutch had not known Mr Dowdall was under surveillance and had no reason to meet him in the park, Mr Grehan said.

“That was where he asked to meet me,” Dowdall said. “I don’t know his reasons for meeting me in the park.

When Mr Grehan returned to the issue of Dowdall discussing bomb-making, he replied “I’m not saying anything (on the tape) about making bombs.”

Mr Grehan asked if electrical circuits and timers were not at the core of bomb making.

“You’re making a massive thing out of this,” Dowdall said. “It didn’t happen.”

He said it was “rubbish talk” and there was no danger to him from anyone.

“Apart from Mr Hurley”, Mr Grehan said, referring to the man Dowdall was separately jailed for torturing at his home.

Mr Grehan then said they were going to go through the audio tape, saying Dowdall had never really given an account of it on which he had been challenged.

Clips of the conversations were replayed and Mr Grehan questioned Dowdall on them. In reference to the conversation about explosives, Dowdall said he had been “asked would I do circuits," he went along with it and pressure was being put on him. Mr Grehan asked him what the timers were for.

“They wanted it for bombs but it didn’t exist,” he said. “They asked me would I do it, I said I’d try but it never happened,” he said.

Mr Grehan said on the tape, Dowdall was speaking about texts he was getting from Shane Rowan, a convicted IRA member who was stopped two days later with three AK-47s that had been used in the Regency attack.

“Is he a serious IRA head?” Mr Grehan asked, to which Dowdall replied: “I don’t know.” Dowdall said he was not in the room when the guns were “promised to them” but all of a sudden he was being asked about them too and they were nothing to do with him.

Mr Grehan then went through Dowdall's descriptions of explosives on the tape, including references to plastic and detonators.

“I don’t know what I’m talking about,” Dowdall said, adding that anyone who did would know what he was saying was wrong.

It was something you would see “in every film you watch and TV programme” such as “border patrol,” he said.

Mr Grehan pointed out a clip where Dowdall is heard saying “my yoke - that is only to demonstrate that it works.”

“I never demonstrated anything,” Dowdall said. “I had told them about it, I demonstrated nothing.” “I didn’t know what I was on about, you are putting me on trial for stuff that never happened,” Dowdall said.

“I’m putting you on trial for lies,” Mr Grehan said.

He asked Dowdall about a clip where he discusses the use of a phone.

“You would want to be a serious expert to do something on the phone and I’m not,” he replied.

When he spoke about it being “too dangerous to move them,” this was a reference to the AK-47s, he said.

He told the court he “didn’t want anything to do with them being moved.”

Dowdall is serving a four year sentence for facilitating David Byrne’s murder, while his father Patrick was jailed for two years for the same offence.

Two other men are also on trial with Mr Hutch. Jason Bonney (51) of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock and Paul Murphy (61) of Cherry Avenue, Swords, deny providing cars for the attack team. Mr Dowdall’s evidence does not relate to them.

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

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