Former SF councillor Jonathan Dowdall being assessed for Witness Protection Programme

Last week, Dowdall and his father pleaded guilty to facilitating the murder of David Byrne at the Regency Hotel in 2016
Former SF councillor Jonathan Dowdall being assessed for Witness Protection Programme

Alison O'Riordan

Former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall is being assessed for the Witness Protection Programme after giving a statement to gardaí which implicates another or others in the murder of David Byrne, who was shot dead at the Regency Hotel in 2016 as part of the Hutch/Kinahan gang feud.

Dowdall, who last week pleaded guilty to facilitating Mr Byrne's murder by making a hotel room available to be used by the Hutch gang ahead of the murder, will never again live in Ireland, a garda told the three-judge Special Criminal Court on Monday morning.

Detective Sergeant Patrick O'Toole agreed with Dowdall's barrister Michael O'Higgins SC that the decision to give a statement to gardaí has placed a "very heavy burden" on him and his family.

He further agreed that while Dowdall has known the Hutch family since he was a teenager, and occasionally borrowed money from them, he is not a member of any criminal organisation.

The detective added that Dowdall did not benefit from the activities of the Hutch crime gang.

Dowdall was in court for a sentencing hearing on Monday morning alongside his father, Patrick Dowdall, who also pleaded guilty to facilitating the murder of Mr Byrne.

Both men were brought into court by two plain clothes gardaí through the jury entrance rather than the cells or public entrance.

Det Sgt O'Toole said the Dowdall family is now in protective garda custody, which has been a "significant shock". A risk assessment carried out by gardaí suggested a "severe" risk to Dowdall and members of his family.

"It's like taking your life and standing is on its head," said Mr O'Higgins.

'Sincere and genuine'

Det Sgt O'Toole confirmed that following his arrest in relation to Mr Byrne's murder, Dowdall said he wanted to speak to someone about the Witness Protection Programme and indicated he was willing to make a statement as to his knowledge of what happened at the Regency Hotel.

He gave what Det Sgt O'Toole described as a "sincere and genuine" statement to gardaí and has made himself available as a witness in the upcoming trial of Gerard 'The Monk' Hutch, who is charged with Mr Byrne's murder.

Mr Hutch's trial is also due to start on Monday.

In his statement, Dowdall has implicated another person or persons, the detective confirmed, adding that the information is of benefit to the prosecution.

The court also heard details of the offence committed by Dowdall and his father. Det Sgt O'Toole told prosecution counsel, Sean Gillane SC, that room 2104 in the Regency Hotel was booked using Patrick Dowdall's credit card on February 4th, 2016, one day before Mr Byrne's murder.

When questioned by gardaí, Patrick Dowdall said he had cancelled the room and not used it, but CCTV from the hotel showed him arriving on February 4th and receiving two key cards from reception.

He then went to the room and used a key card to enter, leaving a few minutes later.

Patrick Dowdall then went with his son and gave the key cards to a man who was a known member of the Hutch criminal organisation.

The sentencing hearing is continuing.

More to follow...

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