WHEN Gerry Hutch was finally tried this week for the murder of Kinahan gang member David Byrne at Dublin’s Regency Hotel, it was a pivotal moment in the investigation into the infamous gangland shooting.
More than six years after the father-of-two was shot dead by gunmen and a year after Hutch was extradited from Spain to face charges, “The Monk” finally faced the Special Criminal Court on Tuesday to plead not guilty.
Hutch, 59, of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin, is on trial with two other men charged with murder. Paul Murphy, 59, of Cherry Avenue, Swords and Jason Bonney, 50, of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock both deny facilitating Byrne’s murder by providing vehicles for the perpetrators.
The trial without a jury is expected to last 12 weeks. Evidence of the indictment was heard for four days.
1. Boxes weigh
The background to the attack was a boxing weigh-in at the hotel on February 5, 2016 amid a feud between the Kinahan and Hutch crime gangs.
The weigh-in was for an upcoming event called “The Clash of the Clans” co-promoted by MGM, which ran a Spanish gym affiliated with the Kinahans.
It was widely publicized and participation by “persons associated with the gym would have been expected,” prosecutor Sean Gillane SC told the court’s three judges. The hotel was packed with boxers, sneakers and families with children when an assault squad stormed the building “in the middle of the day.” The attackers got out in a silver Ford Transit van.
2. Execution-style killing
There were six in the team – five gunmen and a driver. First, a young man dressed as a woman in a blonde wig and dress ran in with a second middle-aged man in a flat cap.
This couple “looped” the hotel together, firing handguns and sending panicked people to flee. The man in the flat cap is the only one who has been identified so far – the late Kevin Murray, who had ties to the paramilitary.
They were followed shortly afterwards by three masked gunmen with AK-47 assault rifles, masquerading as the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) Gardai and referred to in court as “Tactical 1, 2 and 3”.
Some people at the scene thought they were real Gardaí, but then they opened fire and the panic escalated. Byrne, 33, was among those who fled to the lobby and was shot dead by Tactical 1 and 2.
The second gunman jumped over the reception desk to stand “calm and cold” and fired more rounds into Byrne’s “vulnerable” body.
All five returned to the waiting van and left.
Mr Gillane said it was clear the attackers were looking for specific individuals and that the “execution-style killing” suggested an “organized, resourced group” rather than a random attack.
Two other men were shot and injured but did not cooperate with Gardaí.
3. “Statement” Assault Rifles
The court heard prosecutors will have evidence from former Sinn Féin council member Jonathan Dowdall, a co-defendant who became a state witness before the trial began. He and his father Patrick were jailed this week after pleading guilty to facilitating the murder by providing the gang with a room at the hotel.
Jonathan Dowdall now claims Hutch told him after the attack that he was “one of the team that shot David Byrne”.
The court heard there will also be evidence of a wiretapped conversation between the two as they traveled to and from Northern Ireland to meet Republicans after the attack as the feud with the Kinahans escalated.
Hutch is said to have spoken out about truce efforts, saying “he would not show a weak hand and seek peace”.
“It’s very difficult to intervene in relation to the Kinahans because it doesn’t work, the messenger catches on,” he reportedly said.
Hutch also reportedly spoke about “the three yokes” and gave them as a gift “to the Republicans in the north.” The conclusion, according to prosecutors, was that the three yokes were the assault rifles used in the Regency murder.
Their use has been described as “massive statement” and Hutch allegedly said a certain Republican contact “knows they are in the Regency”.
4. Shots “Like Little Bombs”
Mel Christle, then President of the Boxing Union of Ireland, said he was on stage at the weigh-in and described the panic and “chaos” that ensued after the men in wigs and flat caps rushed in with guns.
“The person at the top was quite obviously a man dressed as a woman with a blonde wig with pink and purple streaks through the wig,” he recalled.
He heard gunshots “like little bombs” as people ran and screamed. As he exited the hotel, he encountered two injured men and then saw Byrne’s “disfigured” body leaning against the reception desk. His “face was blown away”.
5. Photographers on site
Newspaper photographers covering the weigh-in were caught up in the unfolding events and photographed some of the attackers.
Colin O’Riordan was there for Independent News & Media and outside his colleague, reporter Robin Schiller, told him that he had previously seen Daniel Kinahan at the hotel.
They heard what Mr. Schiller described as a “gunshot” before two people wearing balaclavas and “Garda ERU style” with AK47s ran in, which he thought was “wrong” and he photographed them.
Mr O’Riordan saw the barrel of another gun as an attacker fired and yelled at a passing buyer to “get the fuck out of here”. Fearing for his life, he held up his hands as the attackers walked past him on the way out, and he heard the man in the wig say, “He wasn’t there, I couldn’t see him.”
Sunday World photographer Ernie Leslie was parked outside and saw a hand coming out the window of a silver van holding a “machine gun of some sort”.
When he went to photograph it, he saw Flat Cap running and took pictures of him. The gun in the van turned to aim at him and he backed away.
6. Not as it seemed
Regency hotelier James McGettigan said that when what appeared to be masked gardaí suddenly walked in he thought there was “some incident on site” but there was “pandemonium” and the gunmen told everyone to lie on the floor.
He could see that one of the gunmen was quite young and he expected him to identify himself, but he left when shots were fired.
Mr McGettigan felt something “unusual” was going on and “it wasn’t the police,” so he locked himself in a room and called gardaí.
7. “Catastrophic” injuries
The then deputy state pathologist Dr. Michael Curtis said Byrne suffered “catastrophic” fatal head injuries when he was gunned down and would have died “quickly, if not instantly”.
In total, he was hit six times in the head, body, hands and legs by bullets from high-velocity weapons.
8. Key Cards and Video Surveillance
The court saw CCTV footage that captured the moment Byrne was shot and the scenes of panic as people fled.
Earlier video showed Jonathan Dowdall’s father Patrick at the hotel the night before receiving key cards for the room they had booked for the gang.
Less than an hour after Dowdall left the room, Kevin “Flat Cap” Murray was seen using it before leaving the hotel with a holdall the next morning.
After escaping in the van, six men believed to be the attackers are seen running down an alley leading to the St Vincent’s GAA club where vehicles allegedly involved in the raid were parked.
9. Shots by BMW
The court heard prosecutors will allege that Paul Murphy was linked to a Toyota Avensis cab and Jason Bonney to a BMW Jeep, both allegedly involved in the crimes.
CCTV footage was played purporting to show Bonney getting into that jeep on the morning of February 5, 2016. He then drives from Portmarnock to Buckingham Street, an area where vehicles involved in the raid were gathering, according to prosecutors.
Later, the BMW is parked at St. Vincent’s GAA Club less than half an hour before the attack. Minutes after the raid, CCTV shows six people walking down an alley towards the club and one, a man in a flat cap, getting into the BMW. Bonney’s defense attorneys question the admissibility of this footage.
10. AK47 intercepted
Gardaí’s inquest testified that later on the day of the shooting, an abandoned, burned-out silver Ford Transit van was found at the nearby Charlemont estate.
Bullets and shell casings lay on the ground around the car. Cartridges have been associated with the Regency attack.
A month after the shooting, Gardaí intercepted a Vauxhall Insignia being driven by IRA member Shane Rowan while traveling north near Slane, Co Meath and found three AK47 rifles with magazine clips and ammunition in the boot. Prosecutors say the Regency attack shell casings came from these weapons.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/the-10-things-we-learned-during-the-first-week-of-gerry-hutchs-trial-for-notorious-regency-murder-42086462.html The 10 things we learned in the first week of Gerry Hutch’s infamous Regency murder trial