Monday, January 23, 2023

Alison O'Riordan

Lawyers for Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch, who is accused of the murder of Kinahan Cartel member David Byrne at the Regency Hotel, have told his Special Criminal Court trial that they do not expect to call any evidence on his behalf.

However, John Fitzgerald SC, representing Mr Hutch’s co-accused Jason Bonney, said his legal team would be going into evidence on Tuesday.

After 13 weeks of evidence the State is expected to conclude its case on Tuesday against Mr Hutch and his two co-accused, who both deny participating in the murder by providing access to vehicles, before the prosecution give their closing speech.

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 (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.

Former Sinn Féin Councillor Jonathan Dowdall, a former co-accused of Mr Hutch who facilitated Mr Byrne’s murder and turned State’s evidence, has said that Mr 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.

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.

Giving evidence on Monday, the prosecution recalled Detective Garda Ronan McMurrow so that the defence could clarify parts of Mr Bonney’s interviews from May 27th, 2016.

‘Ordinary family man’

Under cross-examination, the witness agreed with Mr Fitzgerald that Mr Bonney had told gardaí in his interviews he was not happy about being arrested and did not think he should have been. Mr Bonney said he was an ordinary family man who had worked all his life.

The court also heard Mr Bonney told detectives he was shocked and very frightened when gardaí informed him that his life was under threat. “Guard we have been through hell and back and the last thing I want is to sit here and talk about what I’m after enduring,” he said.

Mr Bonney said gardaí had come to him to talk about the Regency attack and that the accused man had told them that he could not tell them where he was that day but had done his best.

When the accused’s BMW X5 SUV was seized, Mr Bonney said in his interviews that gardaí had made “a holy show of me in the community where I worked”. A few days later gardaí came to his house with a search warrant and the accused told officers “happily I’d give guards my car and let them into my home”.

In his interviews, he said he felt that the way gardai treated him had put a threat on his life. “They took notes down and I agreed to let them take notes down,” he said, referring to a voluntary conversation he had with gardaí on February 21st, 2016.

Det Gda McMurrow agreed with Mr Fitzgerald that Mr Bonney told gardaí in interview he had left school at 13, worked for himself since he was 18 years old and had provided for his family.

Asked about Bonney Construction, the witness said it was not in dispute that the BMW X5 was registered to ‘Bonney Construction’, a company the accused told gardaí his father had owned and was now dormant. The accused said he had been driving the jeep since his father stopped working.

Mr Bonney told gardaí he had the jeep a couple of years, that he had a falling out with his father over a family matter and that he had not spoken to him in the previous two years.

House extension

The court has heard that Mr Bonney told gardaí he was working on both an extension on his own house in Portmarnock and a home renovation at Newbrook Avenue, Donaghmede on February 5th 2016. He said he was going back and forth between the two sites and was using his BMW X5.

The court has also heard that Mr Bonney was served with a Garda Information Message (GIM) and that his son had since left the country and moved to Australia. He told gardaí his son would hopefully come back to Ireland if the threat went away.

Asked by Mr Fitzgerald if his client’s son had left the country because of threats to his family, Det Gda McMurrow said he was not aware but believed so.

The witness agreed that the accused man has no recorded convictions. “I don’t even have penalty points, we are law-abiding citizens,” said Mr Bonney.

Asked by gardaí if he felt that he had been victimised, Mr Bonney said he did.

He discussed with officers the circumstances of his SUV being taken from him “right in the heart of my community’ on February 20th 2016. He said rumours were “doing the rounds” that there was a row between him and his father over the car and gardaí had taken it.

Asked by gardaí who else had driven his SUV that year, Mr Bonney said one or two lads that were working with him but that it was “very rare” as it was not the kind of car that one “can jump into to go down to the suppliers”.

The witness agreed that Mr Bonney told gardaí he was working on two houses between Drumnigh Woods and Newbrook Avenue and talked about being under pressure to get the Newbrook Avenue house done and said he had a couple of weeks of “sheer madness”.

Seized jeep

The trial has previously heard evidence that two detectives went to Mr Bonney’s house the day after his BMW X5 was seized, but the accused declined to make a statement.

The court has heard that the defence case for Mr Bonney would be that on February 5th, he never drove his SUV, which the prosecution say was used in the attack, south of Newbrook Avenue, Donaghmede, [north of the Regency Hotel] but his father did.

Under cross-examination last Friday, Mr Fitzgerald put it to intelligence analyst and final State witness Sarah 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.

Following this, Mr Gillane, prosecuting, told the three judges that hopefully there was light approaching at the end of the tunnel “subject to it not being an oncoming train” and that hopefully the State would be in a position to close the prosecution’s case tomorrow.

Accused Mr Murphy has challenged the admissibility of licence plate evidence and the court will deliver a ruling on that tomorrow morning.

Brendan Grehan SC, for Mr Hutch, said he did not anticipate he would be calling any evidence. Bernard Condon, defending Mr Murphy, said he would be doing “likewise”.

Mr Gillane told the three judges that senior counsel Fiona Murphy will be closing the case and that the State would be in a position to do whatever “is required of us tomorrow or the next day”.

Presiding judge Ms Justice Tara Burns replied: “Let’s try to keep to that timeline”.

The trial will continue on Tuesday before Ms Justice Burns sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone.

It is the prosecution’s case that Mr Bonney was driving a black BMW X5 on the day of the murder and had transported a man in a flat cap, who minutes earlier had raided the Regency Hotel, from St Vincent’s GAA grounds.

The prosecution case is that the late dissident republican Kevin Murray was the man seen wearing a flat cap when Mr Byrne was killed and that he cooperated with the “tactical team” that raided the Regency Hotel on February 5th. Mr Murray died from motor neurone disease in 2017 before he could be brought to trial.

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.

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