A man accused of participating in the murder of Kinahan Cartel member David Byrne told gardaí that he got an invite to the boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel from former professional boxer Matthew Macklin from MGM, the Special Criminal Court heard on Monday.
Accused man Jason Bonney also said that his son, who is a seven-time European bronze medallist, also got invited to the boxing event where Mr Byrne was shot dead.
The court also heard two interviews with Mr Bonney, in which he told detectives that he was shocked and frightened when gardaí informed him that his life was under threat.
The 51-year-old told detectives that the Kinahan Organised Crime Group did not see him as a threat and he could not see any reason why they would be involved in threatening him.
Gerard 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 5, 2016.
Mr Hutch’s two co-accused – Paul Murphy (61), of Cherry Avenue, Swords, Co Dublin and Jason Bonney (51), of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, Dublin 13 have pleaded not guilty to participating in or contributing to the murder of Mr Byrne by providing access to motor vehicles on February 5th, 2016.
It is the prosecution’s case that a silver Ford transit van containing six people left the Regency Hotel after the shooting, including three persons dressed in tactical garda clothing. The raiders then made good their escape by using a number of parked vehicles at St Vincent’s GAA club.
Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, said in his opening address that “an integral part of the operation” which led to Mr Byrne’s death was the means by which the tactical team escaped, which is central to the case of Mr Bonney and Mr Murphy.
Evidence was given last week that now retired Detective Garda Alan Crummey said he went to Mr Bonney’s house on February 21st, 2016, the day after his BMW X5 was seized, but the accused declined to make a statement.
On the day, Mr Bonney said he was working between an extension on his own house in Portmarnock and a home renovation at Newbrook Avenue, Donaghmede. He said he was going back and forth between the two sites and was using his BMW X5.
Detective Sergeant Padraig O’Toole told Mr Gillane on Monday that he went to another home belonging to Mr Bonney at Newbrook Avenue in Donaghmede on the morning of May 27th, 2016, where the accused’s wife opened the door. The witness said he spoke to Mr Bonney in an upstairs bedroom and arrested him at 7.20am for the murder of Mr Byrne at the Regency Hotel with a firearm.
Mr Bonney was brought to Ballymun Garda Station, where the detective said he informed the member in charge that a BMW X5, registered to Bonney Construction, was in Mr Bonney’s possession on February 5th. “We had carried out enquiries in relation to the jeep, CCTV showed it at numerous locations on February 5th and that Mr Bonney was in the jeep on a number of those occasions,” said the witness.
The detective said gardaí were informed that Mr Bonney was the owner of the BMW on February 5th and that it was seen at several locations including the Howth Road, in Donaghmede and at a church on the Malahide Road.
The witness said he told the member in charge that the jeep was part of the convoy that went to St Vincent’s GAA club on February 5 “to take away” people involved in the murder of Mr Byrne. “This jeep was parked up and on CCTV at St Vincent’s GAA Club and a person got into that with a holdall bag,” said the detective.
The detective said he informed the member in charge that Mr Bonney had spoken to gardaí previously, where he was asked to account for ownership of the jeep and where it was on February 5th. “I’m satisfied from the answers he gave that there were certain locations that Mr Bonney had not accounted for,” he added.
Under cross-examination, Det Sgt O’Toole told John Fitzgerald SC, defending Mr Bonney, that he told the member in charge that he was satisfied from the enquiries he had carried out that there was only one key for the BMW and that Mr Bonney was the only person driving it on the day. “He said he had not accounted for certain locations and said the jeep had only gone as far as Chadwicks in Coolock and no further, when in fact it was on the Howth Road,” he added.
‘Ordinary family man’
Member in charge Detective Sergeant John Collins said the detective told him that gardaí were able to track the BMW in convoy with other vehicles involved in the murder to St Vincent’s GAA Club, where Mr Bonney allegedly collected other members of the gang to make good their escape.
In his first interview on May 27th 2016, Mr Bonney told gardaí that he had a heart condition, that he had a heart attack in 2013 and had been on medication since.
Asked what his thoughts were on being in the garda station, the accused said he was not happy about it saying: “I’m arrested and don’t think I should be”.
He said he was an ordinary family man who had worked all his life.
He said he had been served with a Garda Information Message (GIM) and that his son had since left the country. “I was frightened about it and shocked. I’ve been through hell and back,” he added.
The gardaí had been down to his house several times, the phones had been ringing, and they had been going through hell, he said.
When gardaí asked if there was any reason that this was happening, Mr Bonney said: “No, victims we are”.
The accused said his BMW was taken off him three days after the shooting at the Regency Hotel.
He said he felt that the way gardaí dealt with him had put a threat on his life.
The accused said he had boxed 10 years ago and volunteered in the sport.
Asked if he had plans to go to the weigh-in at the Regency Hotel, the accused said he didn’t as he was working.
When asked why his life was under threat, he replied: “You gardaí tell me?” and said he did not know why.
Mr Bonney, who went to school in the inner city, said “Bonney Construction” was his father’s company, which was now dormant.
When asked where he was at the time of the Regency shooting, Mr Bonney said he was working on his house at Newbrook Avenue as they were moving into it. He said he had to move out of his other house at Drumnigh Wood in Portmarnock six weeks ago as it had pyrite.
He said the BMW X5 was registered with his father’s company and that he had been driving it ever since. He said he fell out with his father three years ago.
When asked if he was aware that the boxing weigh-in was happening, Mr Bonney said he had got an invite from “Matthew Macklin MGM” and said he knew him through “the boxing”. He said his son, who is a seven-time European bronze medallist, also got invited to the boxing event.
The court has heard that the Regency Hotel was hosting a weigh-in on February 5th for a boxing event due to take place the following day at the National Stadium and that had been advertised as the ‘Clash of the Clans’.
The event, widely publicised on social media, was a co-promotion between Queensberry Promotions and MGM, a Marbella-based firm which ran a boxing management company and a boxing gym in Marbella in Spain.
Mr Bonney said he didn’t want to be talking about his family business, that his BMW was taken and his home searched, which didn’t make it look good “in front of other people”. “Gardaí told us to leave the country,” he added.
“I don’t even have penalty points, we are law-abiding citizens,” he continued.
Asked if he felt that he had been victimised, Mr Bonney said he did. He said he was given awards in the community and was trusted.
He said it was a shock to be stopped by gardaí and have his BMW taken.
When gardaí asked Mr Bonney if he had replied to Matthew Macklin, Mr Bonney said he was “a good lad” and had a “good character”. The accused said he was never in Macklin’s gym in Marbella in Spain and was not associated with it.
When gardaí asked the accused why he did not want to talk about the Regency Hotel, he said because there was a threat on his life.
“So gardaí told you it was to do with the Regency,” asked detectives. The accused said it was.
He said he has been getting calls on his phone through the night since he was told there was a threat on his life. “I was asked if I was Jason Bonney and they said 72 hours,” he replied.
“Any reason they would be calling you,” asked the gardaí. “Certainly not like that,” he replied.
“Why did they tell you you were under threat? asked the officers. “Because of the Kinahan Cartel,” said the accused.
Asked if the Kinahan Cartel saw him as a threat, Mr Bonney said: “No absolutely not, Matthew Macklin knows me well”. He said he went to school with Gary Finnegan.
“I don’t think they see me as a threat, I can’t see why,” he added.
The accused said he was affiliated with Corinthians Boxing Club in the 1990s and that he helped out other clubs through the years.
In his second interview, Mr Bonney said he was willing to answer any questions but the problem was the “death threat’ on him. He said he was the main driver of the BMW X5 in recent times.
Mr Bonney’s lawyers are challenging the admissibility of evidence of his interviews and Monday’s evidence was heard in a Voir Dire.
The three-judge court previously viewed CCTV footage showing a man reversing a black BMW X5 out of Drumnigh Wood in Portmarnock at 11.38am on February 5th.
Mr Gillane told the non-jury court that the prosecution case is that the man getting into the BMW is Mr Hutch’s co-accused Jason Bonney. However, Mr Bonney’s defence barrister John Fitzgerald SC said this evidence would be challenged and that it was a legal issue.
Garda Michele Purcell has given evidence that the BMW X5 parks up at St Vincent’s GAA grounds at 2.05pm on February 5th. At 2.40pm, six people including a man in a wig and a man wearing a flat cap can be seen running down a lane. The man wearing the flat cap goes straight towards the BMW and puts his bag into the back passenger side of the vehicle. He then gets into the front passenger seat and “they go off”, said Garda Purcell.
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.
The trial continues on Tuesday before Ms Justice Tara Burns, presiding, sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone.