There are no phone records to support Jonathan Dowdall’s evidence that he met Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch on one of the dates the ex-Sinn Féin councillor proposed the accused “confessed” his direct involvement in the murder of David Byrne, an intelligence analyst has told the Regency Hotel trial.
Witness Sarah Skedd also agreed with Mr Hutch’s defence counsel the phone records indicate there was also no opportunity for Dowdall to meet Mr Hutch in the north Dublin park the previous morning – Sunday, February 7th, 2016 – but a data connection was made with Dowdall’s phone that might have covered the location of the park that same afternoon.
Ms Skedd, who is to be one of the State’s final witnesses, had told prosecution counsel earlier on Friday that it is possible the alleged meeting took place on February 7th, as call records for Dowdall’s phone show that a cell located on Collins Avenue in Whitehall, “oriented in such a direction as to potentially give coverage to the park”, was used at 3.16pm.
However, Ms Skedd also agreed with Brendan Grehan SC that one of the cell sites used by Dowdall to make a call to his father just 4.5 minutes later at 3.21pm was at Meakstown in Finglas. She agreed there did not appear to be time for Dowdall to be in the park at that point.
During his lengthy cross-examination, Dowdall told the court the meeting took place on either February 7th or February 8th and that he was not “100 per cent sure which day it was”.
Ms Skedd said none of the phone numbers that contacted Dowdall’s phone [on Sunday, February 7th] stood out as having potentially been used by Gerard Hutch, but it was possible that contact took place via internet-based applications.
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.
Mr Hutch’s two co-accused – Paul Murphy (61), of Cherry Avenue, Swords, Co Dublin, and Jason Bonney (52), 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.
Dowdall, a former co-accused of Mr Hutch who has turned State’s witness and who has pleaded guilty to facilitating Mr Byrne’s murder, was on the stand for eight days in December and cross-examined for seven of those by Mr Hutch’s defence counsel, Brendan Grehan SC, before the Christmas break.
In his direct evidence on December 12th, Dowdall testified that Mr Hutch told him in a park several days after the Regency attack, in or around Monday, February 8th, 2016, that he and another man had shot Mr Byrne at the hotel.
The former 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 Grehan told Dowdall in his cross-examination on December 13th that the defence’s position was the witness had told “two big lies” to the court in his direct evidence, namely that Mr Hutch had collected keys cards for a room at the Regency Hotel from Dowdall and his father on Richmond Road on February 4th, 2016 and that Mr Hutch had “confessed” to him in a park in Whitehall several days later about his direct involvement in the murder of Mr Byrne.
On Dowdall’s seventh and final day under cross-examination in December, the Special Criminal Court heard that an analysis of Dowdall’s phone showed he was travelling towards Dundalk on one of his proposed dates for a meeting with Mr Hutch – when the witness claims Mr Hutch “confessed” his direct involvement in the murder of Mr Byrne – while on the other proposed date his phone pinged off a mast potentially covering the area but “at least three hours” after he claimed he had met the accused.
On Tuesday of this week, under cross-examination, Detective Garda Cathal Connolly, who had taken notes of Dowdall’s meeting with gardaí, agreed with Mr Grehan that Dowdall had “seemed to nail down” that the meeting in the park took place on the same day Eddie Hutch was murdered on Monday, February 8th, 2016 and that the meeting took place between 11am to 12pm in the day.
Ms Skedd, a senior intelligence analyst with the gardaí, gave evidence for a second day on Friday and told prosecuting counsel Fiona Murphy SC that call records for phones associated with Dowdall and his father Patrick confirm they returned to the Navan Road before going to the Regency Hotel on the evening of February 4th, 2016.
Dowdall’s phone had used a cell at the Regency Hotel to make a call to Patsy Hutch, she said.
Ms Skedd said Patrick Dowdall’s phone had used a cell on Richmond Road at 7.45pm on February 4th to make a data connection. She said this appeared to be consistent with Dowdall’s account of being on Richmond Road that evening.
In her evidence, Ms Skedd said Dowdall had also made a reference to meeting Mr Hutch near a park beside a church in Whitehall. She went on to say that Dowdall said he was contacted by Mr Hutch a few days after the murder of Mr Byrne and after a picture was released by the Sunday World newspaper on Sunday, February 7th.
The witness said Dowdall maintained the meeting in the park took place around 11.30am and that he had got a call from Patsy’s wife Kay after Eddie Hutch was fatally shot.
Eddie Hutch was shot dead at his north-inner city home on February 8th, 2016, in what was believed to be a revenge attack for the Regency Hotel shooting three days earlier.
Ms Skedd said the Sunday World picture was released on Sunday, February 7th and Eddie Hutch was murdered on Monday, February 8th.
She noted Dowdall was correct about receiving a call from Patsy’s wife Kay on February 8th and that the only call received on Dowdall’s phone was at 8.03pm on that date, which she said was shortly after the murder of Eddie Hutch.
Having analysed Dowdall’s phone, Ms Skedd said that “based on phone records, there does not appear to have been any clear opportunity to go to the park in Whitehall on Monday, February 8th, 2016”.
She also gave evidence in relation to Sunday, February 7th and said “it is possible that this meeting took place on February 7th, 2016”.
“Call records for Jonathan Dowdall’s phone show that a cell located on Collins Avenue in Whitehall and oriented in such a direction as to potentially give coverage to the park was used at 3.16pm.”
Ms Skedd agreed under cross-examination by Brendan Grehan SC, for Mr Hutch, that she was asked to produce a report in October of last year dealing with Dowdall’s statement concerning a meeting he said he had with Mr Hutch in a park in Whitehall around 11.30am in the morning.
In particular, she focused on whether there was any evidence from telephone records to support or disprove his account or show it to be consistent or inconsistent.
She agreed there was no evidence from Dowdall’s phone records to support the assertion that there was an opportunity for Dowdall to meet Mr Hutch in Whitehall in the morning and up to 2pm on Monday, February 8th.
“On the basis of these records it doesn’t appear so,” she said.
Ms Skeed also agreed with the lawyer there was no evidence of any possibility of Mr Hutch meeting Dowdall in the park at all during that particular day as his phone records suggested he was up north.
The witness was then asked about the possibility of the meeting happening on the previous day, Sunday, February 7th.
She agreed that data connections for Dowdall’s phone showed it continuously used a mast at Ashtown Gate until 12.14pm that day, which indicated that he was at home on the Navan Road.
She agreed that the phone records did not indicate there was an opportunity for Dowdall to meet Mr Hutch at the park that morning either.
Asked about the data connection made with Dowdall’s phone that might have covered the location of the park at 3.16pm that day, Ms Skedd agreed the footprint of the cell sites indicated the possibility that if every other cell site in the area was turned off than these particular locations could pick up a phone connecting from the vicinity of the park.
She agreed that one of the cell sites used by Dowdall to make a call to his father at 3.21pm on February 7t was at Meakstown in Finglas, which the witness agreed was 4.5 minutes after the cell activity in Whitehall.
She also agreed there did not appear to be time for Dowdall to be in the park at that point. However, Ms Skedd said there was a gap between 12.14 and 3.16pm that day when there was no activity on his phone records.
Referring to February 4th, Mr Grehan said Patrick Dowdall’s phone had used a cell at Richmond Builder’s on the Richmond Road at 7.45pm that day to make a data connection. She agreed this information and the map containing it had been in a book of evidence which was served on the accused.
Under cross-examination last December, Dowdall agreed with Mr Grehan that when he received the book of evidence he had very clearly seen phone evidence indicating he was in the area of the Regency Hotel from the evening of February 4th, 2016.
When asked if he knew that his father’s phone had pinged off a mast at Richmond Builder’s at 7.45pm that day, the witness said he didn’t look at the masts or anything like that. “It was where I was,” Dowdall said.
Mr Grehan suggested to the witness he was aware after he saw the book of evidence that there was a phone pinging off a mast at Richmond Builder’s which is halfway down Richmond Road. “No I didn’t know that, I didn’t look at the phone details,” said Dowdall.
Ms Skedd agreed with Mr Grehan on the information provided that Dowdall’s phone was in his home area until at least 12.14pm on Sunday, February 7th and possibly up to 12.34pm.
“Can you say for certain that there is nothing in the phone evidence to support Dowdall saying he was at the park meeting Mr Hutch up to 12 o’clock on Sunday 7th?” asked counsel. “Not on the basis of these records,” she replied.
The court has heard the defence’s case for Mr Hutch’s co-accused Jason Bonney will be that on February 5th, he never drove his jeep south of Newbrook Avenue, Donaghmede, [north of the Regency Hotel] but his father did.
Under cross-examination, Mr John Fitzgerald SC put it to Ms Skedd that the evidence presented did not identify his client anywhere other than outside his Portmarnock home.
She agreed that after this, only a vehicle was identified. She also agreed phone records had nothing to do with a vehicle unless the individual was in it.
“If the driver changed south of Newbrook Avenue and his father drove the jeep (after that) and was seen doing so, you can’t deny that can you?” counsel asked. “No,” Ms Skedd replied.
The trial will continue on Monday before Ms Justice Tara Burns sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone, when it is expected the State will close its case.