Jonathan Dowdall says room booking arrangement on eve of Regency Hotel murder was a ‘set up’

Key witness says Hutches were prepared to throw ‘someone else under a bus’

An arrangement for the booking of a room in the Regency Hotel on the night before David Byrne was murdered there was “a set up”, Jonathan Dowdall told the Special Criminal Court.

Dowdall, under continuing cross-examination by counsel for Gerard Hutch, who has denied the murder of Mr Byrne, said he himself had no involvement in the murder, that people had booked a room to put a man he did not know in it and tied it back to him and his family.

This was “a set up” and the Hutches were prepared “to throw someone else under a bus”, he said.

Wednesday was the second day of the cross-examination by Brendan Grehan SC of Dowdall in the trial of Mr Hutch, (59), last of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin, who has denied the murder of David Byrne (33) during a boxing weigh-in at the hotel on February 5th, 2016.


Two co-accused, Paul Murphy (61), of Cherry Avenue, Swords, Co Dublin, and Jason Bonney (50), Drumnigh Woods, Portmarnock, Dublin 13, have denied lesser charges of facilitating the murder by making vehicles available to a criminal organisation.

Jonathan Dowdall was previously charged with the murder of David Byrne, who suffered catastrophic injuries after he was shot during the attack on the hotel.

The murder charge against Dowdall was dropped last October following Dowdall’s plea in September to a lesser charge of facilitating the murder by the booking of a room in the hotel the previous evening. He and his father Patrick, who pleaded guilty to the same lesser charge, were jailed for four and two years respectively.

The prosecution contend that room was used by one of the attackers, Kevin ‘Flatcap’ Murray, a former dissident republican since deceased.

Dowdall has said his father was asked by Patsy Hutch to book the room for a “friend” and they had no knowledge of the planned attack.

Mr Grehan has put to Dowdall that the contacts about booking the room had been with Patsy Hutch and has suggested the witness had lied that Gerard Hutch had collected the key card from him and his father on the night of February 4th, 2016.

Dowdall, who denies it was a lie, told counsel on Wednesday: “Your client is willing to throw his own brother under the bus, Gerard got the card, your honour.”

He said there was no “original plan” that his father would hand the key card to Kevin Murray.

He agreed the only evidence that it was Gerard Hutch who collected the key was the evidence from him, Dowdall.

He further agreed the only evidence that Gerard Hutch had ‘confessed’ to him in a park in Whitehall, Dublin, three days after the murder of Mr Byrne, was from himself, Dowdall.

Dowdall said he himself was not involved in the murder of Mr Byrne, and it was “only natural” he would wish to have the murder charge against him dropped.

“Why would I take the blame for something I wasn’t involved in to keep other people happy?”

He said he was not in a position to explain various matters concerning the Regency attack for some time.

If he had told the truth about certain things when first arrested by gardaí concerning the attack, he would never have been charged with the murder of Mr Byrne, he said.

He agreed his solicitor formally contacted the gardaí on his behalf in November 2021, after he had been charged with the murder of Mr Byrne.

If he had gone on trial as a co-accused with Gerard Hutch for the murder, he would not have been able to defend himself and explain things, he said.

Dowdall said he had seen the book of evidence in the Regency case while he was serving a sentence in Wheatfield Prison for separate serious offences involving his ‘waterboarding’ of a man at his home.

He said he was unable to have direct physical possession himself of printed transcripts of audio recordings. He said Gerard Hutch gave him his (Hutch’s) copy of the transcripts when he was in Wheatfield prison and he “went along with Gerard, I had no other choice”.

“When he gave me transcripts, I took them and when he spoke to me, I listened, I could not say to him I was speaking to the police.”

He was not saying Mr Hutch forced him to do anything “but I was hardly going to tell him I was going to the police”.

Part of bail conditions imposed on him when he was released on bail on the murder charge in April 2022 were that he could not mix with the Hutches, he said.

Gerard Hutch “put demands on me” when he left Wheatfield, he said. Letters and phone numbers were put in his post box and people on motorbikes were coming to his home and he was put “under pressure”.

Dowdall said he was under such pressure he had attempted to take his own life on a particular occasion and spent a period in hospital. The gardaí knew about this, he said.

At the outset of the case on Wednesday, Ms Justice Tara Burns was informed that video recordings of the trial were circulating on social media and appeared to have been taken from the overflow courtroom.

The judge warned that recording or filming court proceedings is a criminal offence, is “absolutely prohibited” and she would not tolerate it.

It is relatively easy to track down those who circulate such material and they could be subject to criminal proceedings, she said.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times