Lawyers for murder accused Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch have suggested it is “irrational, illogical and inconceivable” that a decision not to prosecute Jonathan Dowdall for the Regency Hotel murder wasn’t entered as a “quid pro quo” for the ex-Sinn Féin Councillor giving a statement to gardaí.
However Detective Superintendent Joseph McLoughlin told Brendan Grehan SC, for Mr Hutch, that the decision to accept a plea from Dowdall to the lesser offence of facilitating the murder was made by the Director of Public Prosecutions in isolation to any potential statement that Dowdall might have made.
Mr Grehan said he would be making submissions that Dowdall agreed to give a statement in circumstances where he had the “most powerful possible incentive” to implicate Mr Hutch if he was going to succeed in getting the murder charge dropped.
Earlier, Detective Sergeant Patrick O’Toole agreed with Mr Grehan that gardaí had no evidence to support Dowdall’s allegation that Mr Hutch had “effectively confessed” to murdering Kinahan Cartel member David Byrne at the hotel other than Dowdall’s “say so”.
Regency hotel trial: Two men convicted of facilitating attack each sentenced to more than 8 years in prison
At the opening of the trial, Sean Gillane SC said the State’s case was that Mr Hutch had contacted Dowdall and arranged to meet him days after the shooting. Mr Gillane said the evidence would be that Mr Hutch told Dowdall that he was “one of the team” that murdered Mr Byrne at the Regency Hotel in 2016.
Under cross-examination for a second day, Mr Grehan asked Detective Sergeant Patrick O’Toole why Dowdall had been originally charged with the murder of Mr Byrne. The detective said it had been on the direction of the DPP.
Mr Grehan put it to the witness that the DPP does not “pluck things out of the air” and that he presumed it was on the recommendation of gardaí that Dowdall had been charged with murdering Mr Byrne. There was evidence that would have pointed to a “prima facie” case against him for the prosecution, the witness replied.
Asked as to what that evidence was, the Det Sgt said it was “in relation to the booking of the room” at the Regency Hotel and the conversation between Dowdall and Mr Hutch in the Land Cruiser car.
The prosecution’s case is that Mr Hutch had asked Dowdall to arrange a meeting with his provisional republican contacts to mediate or resolve the Hutch-Kinahan feud due to the threats against the accused’s family and friends.
Mr Grehan put it to Det Sgt O’Toole that Dowdall told gardaí that he was also telling lies about anything that implicated him in criminality. “He claimed he was acting up to Gerard Hutch and trying to act the hard man,” said the detective.
Mr Grehan told the witness that he himself had volunteered that Dowdall was sincere and genuine in what he had told gardaí. “Yes, he was under threat, his wife and children felt they had no other option than to leave the country,” he said.
Counsel put it to the detective that there was not “a scintilla of other evidence” to support Dowdall’s allegation that he met Mr Hutch on Richmond Road to hand over the key card on February 4, 2016. Det Sgt O’Toole said this was correct other than that Dowdall’s father was in the car with him.
Mr Grehan told the witness that Dowdall’s father Patrick Dowdall had not made a statement. “Yes, his testimony was that he was present when the cards were handed over to Gerard Hutch at that location,” he replied.
The lawyer asked the detective if there was any other evidence “to support” Dowdall’s allegation other than his [Dowdall’s] “say so” that he had met Gerard Hutch in a park after a Sunday World article was published and that Mr Hutch had “effectively confessed” murder to him. The witness said there was not.
The next witness, Detective Garda Cathal Connolly who assisted the previous witness by taking notes of the meetings with Dowdall, told Mr Grehan that Dowdall had come out with “a stream of consciousness” at a meeting on May 18th 2022, mentioning dozens of people’s names and saying “serious criminal things about them”.
The detective also agreed that Dowdall had also provided four names of individuals who “he believed were on the job”.
Det Gda Connolly said Dowdall had told the gardaí at the end of that meeting: “Lads, whether you believe me or not, I’ve nothing to do with this.”
During a meeting on July 4th 2022, gardaí put to Dowdall some of what he had said in his bugged audio conversation with Mr Hutch. Reading these comments back, Mr Grehan noted that Dowdall had said “I’m trying to tell Gerard Hutch what I think he wants to hear” and that Dowdall was “making myself out to be something I’m not so he would trust me. I talk a lot when I’m nervous and this is made worse as I’m taking tablets and constantly repeating myself.”
The witness agreed with Mr Grehan that Dowdall told gardaí that he met Mr Hutch at the forecourt of a petrol station on Richmond Road on February 4th, 2016, where the key card to the hotel room was handed over.
Detective Superintendent Joseph McLoughlin of Ballymun Garda station, who took over the Regency investigation from August 1st this year, testified that he had received an email from Dowdall’s solicitor Jenny McGeever in their first correspondence on August 2nd 2022.
In the letter Ms McGeever states: “The question now remains as to what is to occur next. Jonathan Dowdall has indicated his willingness to give evidence for the prosecution. He has also indicated that in the event that that occurs, the DPP would have to enter a nolle prosequi in respect of the charge of murder of which he is at present an accused. Clearly he cannot be a witness and an accused in the same bill of indictment”.
“We wish also to emphasise that our client is requesting that the DPP enter a nolle prosequi in respect of the count of murder on the basis that he is not guilty of that offence and not on the basis of any quid pro quo. Unlike many other cases where accomplices and participants in an offence indicate a willingness to give evidence, my client’s firm instructions are that he had no involvement in the murder. I am proceeding on that basis.”
“I am asking An Garda Siochana to liaise with the Office of the DPP to evaluate the information provided by him and to make a decision on whether Jonathan Dowdall is required as a witness for the prosecution in the forthcoming trial. This must be done as a matter of great urgency”.
Mr Grehan suggested to the witness that the only logical reading of the email is that it would be necessary for the DPP to drop the murder charge if they wanted Dowdall to give evidence. Det Supt McLoughlin said these two things were “linked” by the solicitor in the email. “She isn’t doing anything necessarily wrong, she is representing her client’s best interests,” said Mr Grehan.
Last Friday, Mr Grehan, for Mr Hutch, said he wished to raise an issue on the admissibility of evidence to be given by Dowdall on foot of the Supreme Court decision in DPP v Gilligan. In the Gilligan case, the Supreme Court found that while the evidence of a witness in a protection programme is admissible, it should be excluded if the circumstances in which it came about fall below the fundamental standard of fairness.
Mr Grehan is challenging the admissibility of evidence to be given by Dowdall, who was a former co-accused of Gerard Hutch but has turned State’s witness. Dowdall has already been sentenced by the non-jury court for the lesser offence of facilitating the murder. The evidence is being heard as part of a voir dire – or ‘trial within a trial’ – to help the court’s three judges determine its admissibility. Mr Hutch (59), last of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin 3, denies the murder of David Byrne (33) during a boxing weigh-in at the hotel on February 5th, 2016.
Jonathan Dowdall (44) – a married father of four with an address at Navan Road, Cabra, Dublin 7 – was due to stand trial for Mr Byrne’s murder alongside Mr Hutch but pleaded guilty in advance of the trial to a lesser charge of facilitating the Hutch gang by making a hotel room available in advance of the murder. Dowdall has been jailed by the Special Criminal Court for four years for facilitating the Hutch gang in the notorious murder of Mr Byrne. The former Dublin councillor is currently being assessed for the Witness Protection Program after agreeing to testify against former co-accused Gerard Hutch, who is charged with Mr Byrne’s murder. Dowdall is expected to give evidence against his former co-accused Mr Hutch in the coming days.
Mr Byrne, from Crumlin, was shot dead at the hotel in Whitehall, Dublin 9. Mr Hutch’s two co-accused – Paul 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 David Byrne by providing access to motor vehicles on February 5th, 2016.
The trial continues tomorrow before Ms Justice Tara Burns sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone.