A taxi driver accused of participating in the murder of Kinahan cartel member David Byrne at the Regency Hotel in Dublin by providing access to a vehicle told gardaí that his Toyota Avensis taxi could have been “cloned”, the Special Criminal Court has heard.
Paul Murphy also told detectives in his first interview that he had purchased the car from the older brother of Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch, Eddie ‘Neddie’ Hutch, who he had known since he was a “young fella”. He paid him €175 per week for a year.
The three-judge court was also told on Thursday that Mr Murphy had driven his taxi into Buckingham Village in Dublin’s north inner city on the morning of Mr Byrne’s murder and that a swipe card used to access the location was found when gardaí searched the vehicle.
The card was one of four missing from a box, the court heard, and its sequence number was one away from a card recovered at the home on Champions Avenue of Patsy Hutch Snr, a brother of murder accused Gerard Hutch.
Gerard Hutch (59), last of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin 3, denies the murder of Mr Byrne during a boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel on February 5th, 2016.
Mr Hutch’s two co-accused - Mr Murphy (61), of Cherry Avenue, Swords, Co Dublin and Jason Bonney (50), of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, Dublin 13 - have pleaded not guilty to participating in or contributing to the murder of Mr Byrne by providing access to motor vehicles on February 5th, 2016.
It is the prosecution’s case that a silver Ford Transit van containing six people left the Regency Hotel after the shooting, including three persons dressed in tactical garda clothing. The raiders then made good their escape by using a number of vehicles parked at St Vincent’s GAA club.
Seán Gillane SC, prosecuting, said in his opening address that “an integral part of the operation” which led to Mr Byrne’s death was the means by which the tactical team escaped, which is central to the case of Mr Bonney and Mr Murphy.
Now retired detective Garda Alan Crummey told Mr Gillane that he took a statement from Mr Murphy at his Swords address on February 22nd, 2016, where Mr Murphy said he had been a taxi driver for the last 20 years and had owned a green Toyota Avensis since 2012. He rented a taxi plate off another man and said he normally worked his days on the northside of the city.
Referring in his statement to Friday February 5th, 2016, Mr Murphy said he took “small jobs” or fares to places like Sheriff Street. He said the receipts would show the dates, times and costs and how long the journeys lasted. Shortly after taking a fare at around 1.10pm, Mr Murphy said he pulled into the Maxol Garage on the Howth Road and got a coffee and a ham sandwich.
He said he then drove to The Beachcomber Pub on the Howth Road and reversed into a parking space, where he sat and ate his sandwich for up to 15 minutes. Mr Murphy said he then drove up Collins Avenue through Fairview and into the city centre.
He said he heard about the shooting at the Regency Hotel on the news at 3pm and thought he was on the North Circular Road at the time. He then drove to Drumcondra where “the traffic was mental” and said he could see “police all over the place” at the hotel. He did not work for the rest of the day and went home, he said.
The accused told gardaí in his statement that he did not know about anything that “went on” in the hotel that day. He said he knew Eddie Hutch, who had previously worked with him at Exchequer Cabs, but that they would not have been friends.
“Drivers were nervous about the association with ‘Neddie’ Hutch,” he added. He said he was the only one that drove the Avensis on the day of the shooting.
Mr Crummey said he met Mr Murphy again on March 3rd, 2016 at the Croke Park Hotel to take an additional statement from him. In the statement, Mr Murphy said: “I want to say further to my last meeting my Avensis taxi could have been cloned. The reason I say this is that I recently got two fines for speeding and littering and I never litter. I’m not inclined to speed cause of my job”.
The accused said the littering fine was for throwing a cigarette butt out the window but he did not think that was him. Mr Murphy told gardaí that he did not pay the fines and would go to court. He said he had no information about the shooting.
The witness said he again met Mr Murphy at the Croke Park Hotel on March 9th, 2016 and took another statement. Mr Murphy was shown a copy of the receipt roll from his taxi from February 5th and there were 11 fares in total. The fares started that day at 10.50am and finished at 4.22pm. The accused was asked by gardaí about two phones found in his car, but said he had only used one of the phones on one occasion and the other for no more than a day.
On May 30th, 2016, Mr Crummey met Mr Murphy by appointment at the Travelodge Hotel in Swords and arrested him for the murder of Mr Byrne with a firearm at the Regency Hotel.
In an interview on May 31st, 2016, Meteor phone records from February 5th were presented to Mr Murphy. These included a 25 second call to Eddie Hutch at 12.52pm that day and again at 12.56pm.
“I was looking for a lend of money, I was stuck for a few bob. That’s what they do, lend you money. Any of the Hutches will lend you a few bob,” he said.
Asked if there was a cost, Mr Murphy said: “It depends on how much you were looking for. I wanted €500, if you pay that back within the month it wouldn’t cost but if you paid it back week by week they’d charge you a few bob”.
When asked if he would be in contact with “the other Hutches”, Mr Murphy said “Patsy occasionally”. Asked if he would be in contact with them often, he said “once or twice a day, sometimes not for weeks”. He said “Neddie” and “Patsy” would lend him money.
When an ACT swipe card was produced to him, Mr Murphy said he had cleaned out the car months earlier and he found it and a set of keys down the side of the front passenger seat. He said he put them in an envelope with the intention of dropping them to the lost property office in Santry but he never got around to it. He said it had to have been a passenger who had lost it.
Declined to make statement
Mr Crummey said he went to Mr Bonney’s house in Portmarnock on February 21st, 2016 but the accused declined to make a statement. Mr Bonney said he did not recall the exact day of February 5th but remembered hearing about the Regency shooting on the radio.
“I knew the boxing was on before. I’ve been involved in boxing all my life,” he said.
Asked if he spoke to any of the Hutches or Kinahans on February 5th Mr Bonney said he was friends with the Hutches and another named family. “I never met Daniel Kinahan, I don’t think I spoke to either of them that day. To the best of my recollection, I’m happy to say I don’t think I spoke to either side that day,” he said.
Det Sgt Brian Hanley testified that he had arrested Mr Murphy on suspicion of having being involved in the murder of Mr Byrne to which he made no reply. He said he believed Mr Murphy had been involved in transporting individuals prior to and subsequent to the murder of Mr Byrne and that he was in possession of a gold/green Avensis taxi.
He said he showed Mr Murphy footage of what he believed to be a taxi arriving at Buckingham Village at 10.54am, 12.02am, 12.10pm and 12.39pm on February 5th. There was also footage of a BMW arriving at Buckingham Village at 12.16pm that day, he said.
The three-judge court previously viewed CCTV footage showing a man reversing a black BMW X5 jeep out of Drumnigh Wood in Portmarnock at 11.38am on February 5th. Mr Gillane told the non-jury court that the prosecution case is that the man getting into the jeep is Mr Bonney. However, Mr Bonney’s defence barrister John Fitzgerald SC said this evidence would be challenged and that it was a legal issue.
The detective said the taxi moved off from outside The Beachcomer Pub at 1.41pm and joined in convoy with a BMW driven by Mr Bonney. The two vehicles then joined a Skoda taxi registered to the Hutch family at St Vincent’s GAA grounds, parked up and remained there until the participants in the murder ran up a laneway.
“We believed they made their escape in vehicles including the vehicle Paul Murphy was in,” he said.
Did not corroborate
He said the fare receipts seized from the taxi during the search did not corroborate with the account Mr Murphy gave regarding his movements.
“The swipe card for Buckingham Village was recovered in Mr Murphy’s vehicle and another card was recovered in the home of Patrick Hutch Senior, one sequence number away from the card recovered from Patsy Hutch Senior’s house,” he said.
Mr Byrne, from Crumlin, was shot dead at the hotel in Whitehall, Dublin 9 after five men, three disguised as armed gardaí in tactical clothing and carrying AK-47 assault rifles, stormed the building during the attack. The victim was shot by two of the tactical assailants and further rounds were delivered to his head and body. Mr Byrne died after suffering catastrophic injuries from six gunshots fired from a high-velocity weapon to the head, face, stomach, hand and legs.
The trial continues on Monday before Ms Justice Tara Burns, presiding, sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone.