Ex-Sinn Féin councilor Jonathan Dowdall handed over hotel room key to criminal involved in David Byrne’s murder, court says

Jonathan Dowdall, 44, was involved in handing over the keys after his father Patrick Dowdall, 65, booked a room at Dublin’s Regency Hotel the day before Mr Byrne was shot dead by gunmen.

At a sentencing hearing today, heir attorneys said the couple did not know how to use the space, Patrick Dowdall committed a “catastrophic misjudgment” and that his son was the “author of his own misfortune”.

The father and son were brought before the Special Criminal Court under increased security this morning after pleading guilty to facilitate the 2016 Regency raid last week.

The court has also heard that Jonathan Dowdall will now be available to testify for the prosecution in the forthcoming trial of Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch and two other men charged in the Regency shooting.

After evidence was heard by the three-judge court, Dowdall’s sentencing was adjourned for two weeks.

The court heard Jonathan Dowdall is being tried for the witness protection program after he gave testimony to Gardaí implicating one or the other in the murder of David Byrne, who was shot dead at the Regency Hotel in 2016 as part of the Hutch/Kinahan gang feud .

Detective Sergeant Patrick O’Toole confirmed that following his arrest in connection with the Byrne murder, Dowdall said he wanted to speak to someone about the witness protection program and stated he was willing to make a statement about his knowledge of what happened at the Regency.

Dowdall and his family are now in protective custody, which came as a “significant shock,” his attorney Michael O’Higgins SC said.

The court heard an assessment conducted by gardaí suggested there was a “serious” risk for Dowdall and members of his family, and Mr O’Higgins said it was “like taking your own life and turning it on its head”.

Det Sgt O’Toole agreed with Mr O’Higgins that the decision to issue a statement to Gardaí placed a “very heavy burden” on Dowdall and his family.

He further agreed that while Dowdall had known the Hutch family since he was young and had occasionally borrowed money from them, he was not a member of any criminal organization. The detective added that Dowdall did not benefit from the activities of the Hutch crime gang.

He said Jonathan Dowdall made a “sincere and genuine” statement to Gardaí.

Mr O’Higgins told the court that the lives of Dowdall and his family were now “effectively over” as he had to spend his life in exile “to look over his shoulder”.

The father and son, from Navan Road, Cabra, Dublin, both pleaded guilty to facilitating the murder of Mr Byrne on 5 February 2016 by renting a hotel room to a criminal organization or its members the day before the attack had provided.

David Byrne, 34, was shot dead in the lobby when armed, masked men dressed as Garda ERU members stormed the building and opened fire during a boxing weigh-in event.

Mr Byrne, a father of two to Crumlin and a member of the Kinahan gang, died after being shot at six times.

His murder sparked the ongoing feud between Kinahan and Hutch.

Jonathan Dowdall was originally charged with murder but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge last week.

Before their guilty plea, the Dowdalls were due to appear in court this afternoon along with three other men.

Gerard “The Monk” Hutch, 58, of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin, is charged with the murder of David Byrne.

Paul Murphy, 59, of Cabra Road, and Jason Bonney, 50, of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, are accused of facilitating the murder by providing vehicle access to the criminal organization that committed it on 5 February 2016.

Prosecutor Sean Gillane put Det Sgt O’Toole through his evidence.

The court heard that a weigh-in was held at the Regency on the afternoon of February 5, 2016, ahead of a boxing match dubbed the “Clash of the Clans” scheduled to take place the following day.

The event at the Regency, which has been linked to boxing promoters Frank Warren and MGM, was widely publicized and attendance by those associated with a particular gym would have been expected.

Boxers, trainers, citizens and families with children were present.

The weigh-in took place at around 2pm in the hotel’s Regency Suite, which featured a raised stage.

A large group of people including boxers, trainers, managers, members of the public and families with children were in attendance.

A silver van was parked outside and a man in a flat cap and a man in a wig came out and walked toward the hotel.

The two passed through the laundry entrance where they met staff before proceeding to the Regency suite where the weigh-in was taking place.

This couple were armed with handguns and a series of shots were fired, sparking panic, Mr Gillane said.

CCTV showed the man in the flat cap and the man in the wig walking down the corridor chasing people fleeing for the exits.

The silver van pulled up in front of the hotel and three people armed with assault rifles and dressed as Gardai in “tactical attire” emerged and went through the front entrance.

This caused confusion as some people thought they were Gardai but they fired their firearms as soon as they entered the hotel.

This escalated the panic and people ran to the reception area.

It was clear the attackers were “looking for specific individuals” and a search had been conducted, Det Sgt O’Toole said.

David Byrne was seen on CCTV running to reception where he encountered the men in tactical gear.

He was immediately shot by a man identified as “Tactical No 1”, then again by “Tactical No 2” while lying injured on the ground.

He’d been able to crawl to the desk, where a man ducked for cover on the other side.

Tactical #2 jumped off the desk and attacked this man but did not fire, then jumped back onto the counter and fired more shots at Mr Byrne’s head and body.

Mr Byrne died from six gunshot wounds to the head, face, abdomen, hands and thighs.

In the meantime, the gentlemen in flat caps and wigs had left the hotel, made a “loop” and entered again.

It was clear all five were acting together and they returned to the van where one driver remained.

The van was found burned out on the Charlemont estate, with ammunition found to have been fired from AK-47 rifles on the ground.

The attackers escaped.

Mr. Byrne’s “execution-style killing,” coupled with the sophistication and significant degree of planning, suggested the involvement of an organized, resourced group rather than a random attack.

Gardaí were aware of the “violent and murderous Kinaham-Hutch feud” and the activities and structure of the Hutch organized crime gang, which featured strong intergenerational family ties.

The hotel listing showed that the room had been reserved in the name of Patrick Dowdall, using his phone number and a family member’s credit card.

When Gardaí contacted the number, Patrick Dowdall confirmed he had booked the room.

CCTV footage from February 4 showed him entering the hotel at 7:20 p.m., paying cash for the room and filling out registration details before receiving two key cards.

He was seen walking into the room and exiting minutes later.

A person not on trial had asked the Dowdalls to book the room and Jonathan Dowdall had driven his father to the hotel.

They drove to another location in Dublin to hand over the key cards, the court heard.

The father and son met a member of a criminal group and “he was given the keys,” Det Sgt O’Toole said.

About an hour later, the late man in the flat cap, Kevin Murray, arrived at the hotel and went straight to the booked room.

On CCTV he clearly had a key card and entered.

The next morning, February 5, at around 10 a.m., he was seen leaving the hotel with a heavy holdall and riding in a taxi to another location, where he became an operational part of the assault team.

Later, Jonathan Dowdall met the person to whom the keys had been given and traveled to Northern Ireland.

Her vehicle had been the subject of surveillance and her conversation was recorded.

The Dowdalls were both found guilty of wrongfully detaining and threatening to kill a man at Jonathan Dowdall’s home in 2015.

Both were serving prison sentences for these offenses and were released in April this year.

Michael O’Higgins SC said his client, Jonathan Dowdall, a father of four, had strong roots in the north inner-city community where he came from and had a successful electrical services business.

He had known the Hutch family since he was young, his mother was a third generation market trader who lived next door to Gerard Hutch.

There have been “significant interactions” between the families, including between Jonathan Dowdall and Patrick Hutch through boxing clubs.

Jonathan Dowdall had once borrowed €20,000 from the Hutch family and this and other loans meant he was “somewhat compromised”, said Mr O’Higgins.

There was a time when members of the Hutch family wanted to buy things online and the Dowdalls used their credit cards to do so.

Kevin Murray had been aware of paramilitary connections and was “very visible” at the hotel, Mr O’Higgins said.

Det Sgt O’Toole agreed with Mr O’Higgins that there was “a theory” that his presence “misdirected” the investigation north and that Jonathan Dowdall was “used in this regard”.

Jonathan Dowdall “had no knowledge of the purpose for which the room was to be used,” Mr O’Higgins said.

If he knew, “no one would book a hotel room that way.”

The witness protection program included relocation abroad, a new identity and the net effect would never return to Ireland except in “limited, covert and clandestine circumstances”.

Mr O’Higgins asked the court to consider the “material assistance” provided by Jonathan Dowdall to the investigation.

John Bowman, speaking for Patrick Dowdall, said his client was a “decent, hard-working man” who suffered from depression and physical ailments.

When contacted by the Gardaí about booking the room, he admitted it was him.

There was a history of members of the Dowdall family facilitating requests to book events for personal family friends, Mr Bowman said.

There was a call about Regency booking from a person who was not on trial and what Patrick Dowdall did was a “catastrophic error of judgement”, said Mr Bowman.

The accused experienced his recent imprisonment as “particularly difficult”.

None of the defendants were members of a criminal organization and did not benefit from the crimes, their lawyers said.

Both attorneys asked the court to consider suspended sentences.

The defendants sat side by side in the dock during the hearing, while David Byrne’s mother, Sadie, sat in the gallery and watched the proceedings.

Justice Tony Hunt, along with Justices Martin Nolan and James Faughnan, adjourned the case and said the verdict would be in two weeks.

https://www.independent.ie/news/ex-sinn-fein-councillor-jonathan-dowdall-handed-hotel-room-key-to-criminal-who-took-part-in-murder-of-david-byrne-court-hears-42035592.html Ex-Sinn Féin councilor Jonathan Dowdall handed over hotel room key to criminal involved in David Byrne’s murder, court says

Fry Electronics Team

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