Former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall has admitted that he lied “out of necessity” when gardaí asked if he knew who was involved in the murder of Kinahan cartel member David Byrne at the Regency Hotel.
Brendan Grehan SC, defence barrister for Mr Dowdall’s former co-accused Gerard Hutch, told the state’s witness that he had come across as “very indignant and convincing when telling lies”.
Mr Grehan played video clips of interviews Mr Dowdall gave to gardaí in May 2016, in which he told them he spoke to Mr Hutch but said that if the accused was involved in the Regency murder, he was not “that stupid to tell me”.
Counsel said he was trying to find out “which Jonathan Dowdall was lying”: the one here today, or the one where he is telling gardaí “in an open and confident way” about his dealings with Mr Hutch.
Regency hotel trial: Two men convicted of facilitating attack each sentenced to more than 8 years in prison
The state’s witness told gardaí at the time that he didn’t know who carried out the Regency attack but in his direct evidence to the Special Criminal Court earlier this week, Mr Dowdall said Mr Hutch had by then admitted to him that he and another man had shot Mr Byrne at the hotel.
I couldn’t say I knew who was involved in the Regency. It was a lie out of necessity
Mr Dowdall said on Thursday: “I couldn’t say I knew who was involved in the Regency. It was a lie out of necessity. My family would have been killed if I said who was involved in the Regency.”
Under cross-examination for a third day by Mr Grehan, Mr Dowdall said Mr Hutch wouldn’t have spoken to him about the Regency but “things went horribly wrong for him. He tried to kill Daniel Kinahan and tried to blame the IRA and he missed Daniel, hit another person and another person was shot. A photo was taken that linked them to the Regency and there was people calling to homes, so that was why he told me”.
During the 2016 interviews, Mr Dowdall also told gardaí that Mr Hutch had called to his home two to three times since the Regency shooting looking for “advice on media stuff” and things like that. “Long before that,” he said, Mr Hutch had called to his home in relation to fundraisers for Sinn Féin. Mr Dowdall said that “none of the politicians will say that”, and mentioned “Mary Lou [McDonald]” by name.
The former electrician told gardaí earlier in the same interview that Mr Hutch “never” spoke to him about the murder of Mr Byrne, saying: “Sure why would he, I’m not a criminal.”
Earlier on Thursday, Mr Dowdall told the non-jury court that he did not know there was “this big Hutch criminal organisation” and was unaware the accused’s brother, Patsy Hutch, was “involved in crime”.
He also admitted on Thursday he was “reckless” when he helped book a room at the Regency Hotel for one of the raiders on the night before the murder of Mr Byrne. “I was reckless in booking the room without asking who that room was for and not asking the proper questions,” he added.
In his direct evidence on Monday, Mr Dowdall testified that Gerard Hutch told him in a park several days after the Regency attack, in or around February 8th 2016, that he and another man had shot Mr Byrne at the hotel. The ex-politician testified that the accused said he “wasn’t happy about shooting the young lad David Byrne and David Byrne being killed”.
Asked by prosecution counsel Sean Gillane SC if Mr Hutch had said who had shot Mr Byrne at the Regency Hotel in 2016, Dowdall replied: “He said it was him and ‘Mago’ Gately.”
Mr Dowdall (44) was charged on April 27th, 2021 with the murder of Mr Byrne at the Regency Hotel, but pleaded guilty in advance of the trial to a lesser charge of facilitating the Hutch gang by making a hotel room available for use by the perpetrators the night before the attack. He was jailed by the Special Criminal Court for four years for the facilitation offence.
Following Dowdall’s sentence on October 3rd, a nolle prosequi – a decision not to proceed – was entered on the murder charge against the former Dublin city councillor.
Mr Hutch (59), last of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin 3, denies the murder of Mr Byrne (33) during a boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel on February 5th, 2016.
Under cross-examination on Thursday, Mr Grehan suggested to the witness that he had told “lies and untruths” to gardaí when he was questioned about the murder of Mr Byrne on May 18 2016 and that he was very convincing. “You can suggest what you want,” he replied.
Nobody knows Gerard. He’s a very quiet and distant man. To be honest, I like him
In the interview played to the court, Mr Dowdall was asked by gardaí when and where was the last time he had seen Mr Hutch. “I couldn’t tell you, a few weeks ago maybe. He probably would have called to the house. It would have been after the house was raided,” he said.
Mr Dowdall went on to tell gardaí in the interview: “Nobody knows Gerard. He’s a very quiet and distant man. To be honest, I like him. I respect Gerard because in the area, people could go to him. If families were being pressed on, people could go to him.
“Where I grew up, I have respect for him; that’s as far as it goes. I wouldn’t have been a close friend of his, I respected him, I was a public figure in that community. That was my job, I fixed problems, got people jobs, homes, [opposed] anti-social behaviour.”
Mr Dowdall went on to tell gardaí that he did not think Mr Hutch was a bad man. Asked by gardaí if Mr Hutch had ever spoken to him about the Regency Hotel murder, he said: “No, he never spoke to me in any regard” about the shooting.
“Anything at all?” pressed gardaí. “No, he never did,” said Mr Dowdall. “He wouldn’t discuss something like that.”
Under cross-examination on Thursday afternoon, Mr Dowdall told Mr Grehan he didn’t remember the interview but he does now.
Asked by counsel if he was telling lies in the interview, Mr Dowdall said that in “some aspects I’m not telling the truth, but I’m not telling lies. I was hardly gonna say when they asked me certain questions: ‘Yeah, he told me this’.”
Asked again by Mr Grehan if he was telling lies, the witness said he did not know what the hotel room at the Regency was used for and only found out much later. “If gardaí had said at the time that the room was involved, I would have told them who asked to book the room,” he said.
“I’m not blaming the guards. The Hutches did that to blame the IRA and it went bad when they missed Daniel
The witness went on to say he was never a “trusted friend” of Mr Hutch until “they decided” to have him as a trusted friend.
Mr Dowdall said that after he was arrested, he was named in the media and “everything I was being questioned about was leaked”. He said he doesn’t know if it was a coincidence but there were stories online that he was paid €250,000 to organise the Regency attack and a gunman “ends up in the room I’m involved in booking”.
He added: “Someone had an agenda to blame somebody.” Mr Grehan asked if he was blaming the gardaí. Mr Dowdall responded: “I’m not blaming the guards. The Hutches did that to blame the IRA and it went bad when they missed Daniel.”
The trial continues tomorrow before presiding judge Ms Justice Tara Burns, sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone. Dowdall has previous convictions for false imprisonment, threatening to kill and causing serious harm, dating from January 2015.
Dowdall’s father Patrick Dowdall (65) was jailed for two years before the Regency trial started, after he also admitted his part in booking the hotel room for the raiders.
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.