Gerard Hutch told former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall days after the “militaristic and macabre” killing of David Byrne at Dublin’s Regency Hotel he was one of the team who shot Mr Byrne, the Special Criminal Court has been told.
Seán Gillane SC, for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), said the prosecution case is that Mr Hutch was part of a six person team involved in an attack at the hotel during which Mr Byrne was killed.
Mr Hutch replied “not guilty” when arraigned before the three judge non-jury court on Tuesday on a charge of the murder of Mr Byrne (33) at the hotel on February 6th, 2016.
Two other men — Paul Murphy (59), of Cherry Avenue, Swords, Co Dublin and Jason Bonney (50), of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, Dublin — pleaded not guilty to participating in or contributing to activity which could facilitate the commission of a serious offence, to wit the murder of David Byrne, by a criminal organisation by providing access to specified motor vehicles to that organisation or its members on February 5th, 2016.
Mr Gillane, with Fiona Murphy SC, said the prosecution case is that “this deliberate killing” was carried out “without restraint” by a group of people of which Mr Hutch was one and was facilitated by the provision of vehicles by Mr Murphy and Mr Bonney.
Outlining the prosecution claim, he said the Regency Hotel was hosting a weigh-in on February 6th, 2016, for a boxing event at the National Stadium that evening. The weigh-in was scheduled to take place on a raised stage in the Regency suite area, past the main reception area, at 2pm.
A room was booked in the hotel the previous night in the name of Patrick Dowdall, who was driven by his son Jonathan to the hotel that evening on February 5th, 2016, to register and collect the key cards for the room, counsel said.
The Dowdalls then drove to Richmond Road where Gerard Hutch approached the car and asked for and was given the key cards, he said. The key cards were later provided to Kevin Murray, since deceased, who was captured on CCTV entering the booked hotel room that evening and exiting it the following morning, he said.
Mr Murray and another man dressed as a woman and wearing a wig were among six people involved in the attack on the Regency the following day, the prosecution contends. The six, it claims, also included three armed individuals, dressed as gardaí in tactical style clothing, who disembarked outside the hotel from a silver transit van, and the driver of that van.
Counsel said six vehicles were seen on CCTV leaving the car park of Donnycarney church 20 minutes before the shooting started and the prosecution contends two of the vehicles were linked to Paul Murphy and Jason Bonney. The prosecution say, after the shooting, the six vehicles were seen on CCTV parked up beside the nearby St Vincent’s GAA club and were used as getaway vehicles.
Mr Gillane said, while the weigh-in was under way at about 2.30pm, a silver transit van pulled up near the hotel and a man wearing a flat cap, whom the prosecution say was Kevin Murray, and a man dressed as a woman exited from it and entered the hotel.
People heard gunfire, gunshots and “cracking sounds”, causing panic.
The two individuals who had exited the van were seen to be carrying weapons and “giving chase”.
Moments after the two entered the hotel, three individuals dressed as gardaí in tactical style clothing and armed with assault rifles also emerged from the van and entered the hotel, causing further confusion as some people believed they were gardaí, Mr Gillane said.
Those three began discharging their firearms as they entered the hotel, causing further panic, the court heard. Hotel CCTV captured the persons in tactical clothing and still photos were also taken by a member of the media attending the event, counsel said.
Mr Gillane said the shooting was not indiscriminate and had elements that were “both militaristic and macabre”. It took place in the middle of the city in the middle of the day, “was performative in essence and targeted”. It is clear that individuals were being looked for, he said.
David Byrne could be seen on CCTV running from the Regency suite area, counsel said. Mr Byrne was shot in the reception area by one person, whom counsel referred to as “Tactical One”, wearing tactical style gear, and then shot again by a second person, “Tactical Two”, Mr Gillane said. Injured, Mr Byrne remained prone in that area.
Tactical Two, having seen Mr Byrne on the ground, jumped on to the reception desk and pointed his weapon at another male before jumping back down and “calmly and coldly” discharged further rounds into Mr Byrne’s body, counsel said. Mr Byrne suffered six gunshot wounds including to the face and abdomen.
The “tactical team” continued after this happened to move at speed through areas of the hotel and it is clear the raiders were looking for a specific person, he said. The man with the wig had said: “I don’t know where he is. I couldn’t f**king find him.”
Counsel said the tactical team then left the hotel and went towards the van. The man with the wig and the man with the flat cap ran towards the tactical team and it was “manifest” the team was waiting for them.
The van left and was later found burned out at Charleville estate, he said. A number of discharged rounds found in and around it were associated with rifles, most commonly AK 47 assault rifles.
The six raiders could be seen on CCTV running down a lane towards St Vincent’s GAA club about 2.40pm, he said. The men with the flat cap and wig were shortly afterwards seen on CCTV carrying bags, the other three had changed their clothes and all made “good their escape” in six vehicles captured on CCTV parked near the GAA club.
It became apparent this was an “execution style killing” combined with a sophisticated level of planning which spoke to the involvement of a large organised group rather than some random group, counsel said.
The trial is expected to run for 12 weeks.