Jonathan Dowdall, a former co-accused of Gerard Hutch who has turned State’s witness, has denied he used the promise of bomb timers as “a bargaining tool” to get dissident republicans to mediate in the Hutch/Kinahan feud.
Under cross-examination for a sixth day, Mr Hutch’s defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC accused Dowdall of having told an “opportunistic lie” to the court and “seizing on” it, when the former electrician said an excerpt from the audio recording – “I know you’ve more balls than any c*** I know like, doing that and all” – referred to the accused’s role in the Regency attack.
The ex-politician also denied that references he made on the recording about bombing a house in Finglas or having the IRA grab two people and “whack” one of them were real, he insisted they were just “nonsense”, “hypothetical stuff” and “none of it ever happened”.
As court finished up for the day, Dowdall asked the judges how many more days would he “be here” in the witness box. Presiding judge Ms Justice Tara Burns said she had no control over this and that it was a matter for Mr Grehan to cross-examine him as he saw fit.
Regency hotel trial: Two men convicted of facilitating attack each sentenced to more than 8 years in prison
The defence played further excerpts on Tuesday from secret garda recordings of conversations between Gerard Hutch and Dowdall while they were allegedly travelling north to a meeting in Strabane in Co Tyrone on Monday, March 7th 2016. After certain clips were played, Mr Grehan asked the witness to explain to the court what was said in these recorded conversations.
The State’s case is that Mr Hutch had asked Jonathan 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. The Special Criminal Court has viewed CCTV footage of what the State says is Mr Hutch making two separate journeys to Northern Ireland with Dowdall on February 20th and March 7th, 2016, just weeks after Mr Byrne was murdered. Gerard Hutch (59), last of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin 3, denies the murder of Kinahan Cartel member David Byrne (33) during a boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel on February 5th, 2016.
In his direct evidence last week, 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.
Mr Grehan asked Dowdall on Tuesday about discussing mediation in the audio recording and how Gerard Hutch had made a comment that it’s “very hard to get involved where the Kinahans are concerned cos it doesn’t work, the messenger gets it”. Dowdall said he did not know the Kinahans but agreed that Mr Hutch had said this.
Mr Grehan asked the witness about another part in the recording, where Dowdall told the accused about “particular yokes that was used”. Dowdall said he was talking about particular guns used in the Regency attack. Asked if he knew a gun could be traced, the witness said he didn’t as he does not know anything about guns.
Mr Grehan put it to Dowdall if he was serious considering he had such a huge interest in crime and television, the witness repeated that he didn’t know if guns could be traced.
The barrister told the witness, “You know Mr Hutch is hard of hearing”. Dowdall said he knew this.
Counsel put it to the State’s witness that Gerard Hutch is referring “the whole time in the third person; they did this, they didn’t want” when talking about the Regency hit team and hadn’t used the words “we”.
Mr Grehan also put it to Dowdall that the accused doesn’t say or lapse into “we did this or we did that” at any stage to which the witness replies, “he did at other stages”. In the transcript Gerard Hutch told Dowdall: “Well he, he was on the telly there, Williams talkin’ and he was sayin’, they came in with them and people looked at them and thought they were cops cos anyone with cop on would know immediately that cops don’t use them”. Gerard Hutch went on to say in the recording: “He said they have them, they coulda have them M7′s and M5′s that the cops have but they didn’t want to use them they wanted to use AKs”.
The accused can also be heard saying: “Yeah he said they wanted to use them, they have them other ones and ya wouldn’t have known the difference; they literally didn’t want to use them other ones”.
Bombing in Finglas
In his evidence, Dowdall also denied he was referring in the audio recording to a bomb going off in a house in Finglas. “It’s nonsense, didn’t happen and was never going to happen,” he said. “You give an explanation that it was never going to happen but you did say it about a bomb going off in Finglas?” said counsel. “If you say so,” replied Dowdall.
The ex-politician complained that he was now “here seven days” but Mr Grehan continued the cross-examination saying: “Just so we are clear, you are referring to the IRA grabbing two of the persons”. Dowdall said he was being put under a lot of pressure before March 7th.
Asked if he was saying that tablets had made him say “grab two of the c**** and whack one of them”, Dowdall said he was just saying stuff. Referring to words used by Dowdall in the audio recording, Mr Grehan said the words “whack one of them” is an expression to kill someone and “to plug someone” is the same, to shoot them. “It’s hypothetical stuff,” replied Dowdall.
When reference was made by counsel to the “six names” in the transcript of the assassins who had to “go down” for the killing of Eddie ‘Neddy’ Hutch and the attempted assassination of Gerard Hutch in Spain “as part of the deal” with the republicans, Dowdall said there was no deal and the only thing the republicans were going to do was contact the Kinahans to sit down for a meeting. “The rest is sh*** talk. I’ve explained all this, you are talking ten hours and leaving out what was said to me and playing certain things that suit you to play”. Mr Grehan told the witness he was trying to “focus in” on parts of the recording to which Dowdall replied: “Trying to focus in on parts to make me look terrible when I’m talking nonsense”.
Counsel for Mr Hutch further put it to Dowdall that he had told his client in the audio recording: “This is not your fight it can’t be all left on your shoulders either Gerard”.
The witness went on to explain: “I also said about having the biggest balls I know after doing what he did”. Mr Grehan told the witness that he had not said that in that part of the audio recording. In the recording Dowdall says: “I know you have more balls than any c*** I know like, doing that and all”.
The witness told Mr Grehan that this comment referred to the Regency shooting but counsel said there was no reference in that part of the recording to the Regency. “You are simply being opportunistic today trying to seize on that,” said counsel. Dowdall denied this assertion.
Mr Grehan went on to suggest that this was “an opportunistic lie” and that Dowdall had gone on to definitively advise that the accused “get rid of those two c**** and that those two have to be made examples of”. “That’s what it seems,” said the witness.
Dowdall continued: “I don’t know who these people are, I’m going along with the whole thing, I’m talking about stuff I shouldn’t be talking about”.
“No address was ever given, it was never going to happen”.
During another stage of his cross-examination, Dowdall told counsel he had made him out to be a member of the IRA “for days” and if he was ever in the IRA then the gardaí would have known as he was under 24-hour surveillance. Mr Grehan called this nonsense and asked the witness on “what basis was his house searched on March 9th″. Dowdall said his house was raided for firearms and explosives on suspected membership of the IRA.
In reply, Mr Grehan said the witness was going on about his house being under surveillance as if it was some kind of alibi for him. The key prosecution witness agreed with counsel that he had referred to “Fluff Gallagher” in the audio recording as the main leader of the INLA on March 7th. “I don’t know if he was then, I heard years ago he was,” said Dowdall.
At another point, Mr Grehan put it to the witness that he had referred to meeting the Continuity IRA in Armagh, which Dowdall denied. “Then why are you saying it,” asked the barrister. “I don’t know,” said Dowdall.
“Is it a lie?” pressed Mr Grehan. “I never met anyone from the Continuity IRA. I said a lot of things on those tapes,” continued Dowdall. “If you are saying it never happened is this a lie?” asked counsel. “I don’t know,” said Dowdall.
Dowdall also said he never planned to give “electrical circuits” to the republicans as they never existed. “If I had given them they wouldn’t have had to keep asking would they,” said Dowdall.
Mr Grehan put it to the witness that he had told Gerard Hutch “I wouldn’t give them everything until they see Kinahan” and that he was using a bomb timer as a “bargaining tool”.
“You were suggesting not giving it until they talk to Kinahan,” asked Mr Grehan.
“No, I didn’t have it,” said the witness.
Dowdall also denied a defence proposition that it was quite clear from the recording that he was going to get ‘Wee’ to do “a hit” in Dublin as he had said in the recording that it would not be a wise move to let “the six people” off the hook. Dowdall said both he and the accused were saying it and called the suggestion nonsense.
Dowdall said, “I don’t know why you keep dumping all this on me when [there were] two people there [in the jeep]”. “It’s sh** talk, I couldn’t arrange to have anyone killed”. “Cause you’re just all talk?” asked Mr Grehan. “I just couldn’t and wouldn’t,” replied the witness.
Mr Grehan suggested at one point, that Dowdall wouldn’t let the assassins “loose” and that he had suggested to Gerard Hutch to “make it part of the peace deal” that the Kinahans would take care of the assassins.
“Part of the same deal that never happened,” said Dowdall.
Dowdall will continue in cross examination tomorrow before presiding judge Ms Justice Burns sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone.
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. The prosecution case is that the late dissident republican Kevin Murray used the hotel room that was booked at the Regency on the night of February 4th, that he was the man seen wearing a flat cap when Mr Byrne was killed and that he co-operated with the “tactical team” that raided the Regency Hotel on February 5th. Mr Murray died from motor neuron disease in 2017 before he could be brought to trial.
Dowdall has previous convictions for false imprisonment, threatening to kill and causing serious harm from January 2015.
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, which was hosting a boxing weigh-in at the time. 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.
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.