Regency trial: Dowdall vows to rebuild life as cross-examination comes to an end

Regency trial: Dowdall vows to rebuild life as cross-examination comes to an end

Alison O'Riordan

Former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall, a former co-accused of Gerard 'The Monk' Hutch who has turned State's witness, has vowed he will rebuild his life no matter if he has to "dig dog sh**e to clean kennels" to feed his children.

The Special Criminal Court also heard on Wednesday 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. On the other proposed date his phone pinged off a mast potentially covering the area but "at least three hours" after he claimed he'd met the accused.

Under cross-examination for a seventh and final day, Dowdall told Mr Hutch's defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC he had "torn him to shreds" for the last week and that if the three judges don't believe him that's up to them. "I've painted myself in a terrible light, but that's the truth," he said.

RTÉ Liveline

The non-jury court refused to allow the defence to play a video of Dowdall waterboarding, torturing and threatening to kill victim Alexander Hurley who came to his home to buy a motorbike in January 2015.

However, an interview was played to the courtroom of Dowdall "hot-footing" it onto Joe Duffy's RTE Liveline programme on March 9th, 2016, where Mr Grehan said the witness played the "indignant victim" and denied any involvement with criminality following a raid by gardai on his home on the Navan Road.

Former politician Dowdall, the key witness in the Regency Hotel murder trial who has pleaded guilty to facilitating Kinahan Cartel member David Byrne's murder, has denied under cross-examination for the past seven days contentions that he is a "master manipulator", that he is prepared to lie on oath and had told "two big lies" in his direct evidence.

He also rejected claims that he has a "fairly mixed relationship with the truth", that he manipulates every situation to his own advantage and that he is an opportunistic liar.

The State's case is that Mr Hutch had asked Jonathan Dowdall to arrange a meeting with his provisional republican contacts to mediate or resolve the Hutch-Kinahan feud due to the threats against the accused's family and friends.

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.

Court artist sketch of defendant Gerry "The Monk" Hutch 

In his direct evidence last week, Dowdall testified that Gerard 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.

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".

Waterboarding video

The defence wanted to play footage to the court on Wednesday of a "torture video" of Jonathan Dowdall waterboarding and threatening to kill Alexander Hurley who came to his home to buy a motorbike in January 2015.

In June 2017, Dowdall was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment and his father Patrick Dowdall eight years imprisonment after pleading guilty to falsely imprisoning Alexander Hurley and threatening to kill him at Jonathan's family home on January 15th, 2015.

Dowdall was later re-sentenced to 7 years and 11 months and Patrick Dowdall to four years imprisonment after successful appeals.

In her ruling, Ms Justice Tara Burns said Dowdall accepted that this event occurred and that he had pleaded guilty to it. However, she said the court was anxious not to engage in collateral matters to what this trial is about.

The court has heard that gardaí were searching Dowdall's house on the Navan Road on March 9th, 2016 in relation to the Regency attack on the basis that firearms and explosives were being stored there on behalf of the IRA, when detectives found a USB key containing footage of the waterboarding of Mr Hurley.

When gardaí examined the flashdrive, they discovered that it contained footage of a man imprisoned in Dowdall's garage.

The non-jury court has heard that the warrant was executed on Dowdall's house an hour after three AK-47 assault rifles - used in the murder of Mr Byrne at the Regency Hotel - were recovered by gardaí in the boot of convicted IRA member Shane Rowan's car.

Radio interview

Asked by Mr Grehan if he was upset that his house was raided on March 9th, Dowdall said he wasn't annoyed.

"With respect you were very annoyed and indignant and thought you were victimised," said counsel.

"Where are you getting this from?" asked Dowdall.

"I'm getting it from the man who hot-footed it onto Joe Duffy to tell the nation how unfair it was. You were outraged and felt it was because you were previously a Sinn Féin councillor," said the barrister.

Jonathan Dowdall during his political career

With that Mr Grehan asked that an audio be played of Dowdall appearing on the Joe Duffy radio show on Friday, March 11th 2016, where the father-of-four denied any involvement with criminality following a raid by gardaí on his home on the Navan Road two days previous on the evening of March 9th.

Dowdall said he only vaguely remembered the phone call as he was taking tablets and wasn't himself.

'No links'

Dowdall told RTE's Liveline that "I've no links or connections to criminality or any crime organisations in any shape or form".

The phone call starts with Dowdall telling Joe Duffy: "My life is upside down to tell you the truth. My family are in an awful state, my daughter won't go to work, she won't go to college.

"My house was raided as you seen, other than that I didn't make it public. The guards did that, they notified the press as far as I'm aware and the house was raided under section 9 as being a suspected member of the IRA and they were in search of firearms and explosives."

The presenter refers to "a major story" that gardaí had stopped a car in Slane and found three AK-47s that were involved in the Regency attack. "I seen that in the media myself, but the warrant issued for my house was issued on March 4th, but they executed it on Wednesday, so there is no connection to what happened in that incident which I don't know anything about to mine," said Dowdall.

Asked by Joe Duffy if he knows the Hutch family, Dowdall says: "You know the way the inner city works, everybody knows everybody.… of course I know members of the Hutch family and some of them I’m very proud to know, and there's some of them that I don't know".

Convincing protest of innocence

Under-cross examination, Mr Grehan put it to Dowdall that he was awfully convincing in the phone call protesting his innocence. "I wasn't involved in organised crime," Dowdall replied.

Counsel said he had portrayed himself as a victim.

Dowdall continued: "I wasn't involved in the Regency, I didn't make money from crime".

"The interview demonstrates that you're an individual who believes you can lie yourself out of any situation, and you are very convincing in doing that," said Mr Grehan. "That's your opinion," said Dowdall.

Richmond Road

Mr Grehan opened his cross-examination last Tuesday by telling Dowdall the defence position was that the witness had told "two big lies" to the court, namely that his client 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 Gerard Hutch had "confessed" to him in a park several days later.

A Garda cordon outside the Regency Hotel in Dublin where David Byrne was murdered.

Dowdall agreed with Mr Grehan that when he received the book of evidence he had very clearly seen phone evidence indicating that 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.

Counsel put it to the witness that when he told gardaí that he met Gerard Hutch on Richmond Road - a big long road - he had given no destination.

"I told gardaí exactly the garage, halfway down Richmond Road, I parked in a little tiny bit beyond the garage,' he said.

Mr Grehan suggested to the witness that 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.

The lawyer said he was challenging the witness's suggestion that Gerard Hutch had "come out of the shadows" to take the key cards on February 4th.

"One hundred per cent it was Gerard Hutch, if it was anyone else I would say. I have no reason to say it was Gerard Hutch."

Mr Grehan suggested that the witness's account about Richmond Road had evolved over time and if this had happened a spot would have been picked on Richmond Road. "The only immovable thing is Richmond Builder's where the telephone mast was pinging and you knew that from the book of evidence," he said. Dowdall denied this.

"You have torn me to shreds up here for the last week all to get to this point," Dowdall told Brendan Grehan SC (above), counsel for Gerry Hutch. Photo: Collins Court

Park meeting and phone records

Defence lawyers argue that one of the "big lies" told by Dowdall to the court in his direct evidence is that Gerard Hutch had "confessed" to him in a park in Whitehall in or around February 8th, 2016 about his direct involvement in the murder of Mr Byrne.

Dowdall agreed with Mr Grehan on Wednesday that he had claimed he met Gerard Hutch on the day Eddie 'Neddy' Hutch was killed on Monday, February 8th, 2016.

Dowdall said he wasn't one hundred per cent sure if it was Sunday February 7th or Monday February 8th.

Asked if he tied it to the day Eddie Hutch was killed and he got a call from Patsy Hutch's wife with the news, Dowdall said he was not one hundred per cent clear. He said he would like to have both possibilities.

He agreed that his recollection was telling gardaí February 8th as he got a phone call shortly afterwards. "I just know the newspaper was released so either the Sunday or Monday morning."

Mr Grehan said Dowdall's phone was examined and showed that Patsy's wife had rang Dowdall at 8.03pm on February 8th, shortly after Eddie Hutch was murdered.

"You said the meeting happened between 11 and 12am in the morning and in accordance with an analysis of your phone it shows it was pinging off the cells on the Navan Road until 11.58am that day and then shows it travels to the M1 towards Dundalk," said counsel.

"It wasn't the 8th then was it," said Dowdall. "It can't have been Monday".

When a phone analyst looked at the possibility that it was the day before, February 7th, Dowdall’s phone pinged off a cell at Collins Avenue, Whitehall potentially covering the park at 3.16pm, “at least three hours after you claim you met Mr Hutch,” Mr Grehan said.

Dowdall said his memory from eight years back was that the meeting happened in the morning time.

In summary, Mr Grehan put it to the witness that there is no support for either allegation of the handing over of the keys cards or the park other than his "say so" and nothing else.

Dowdall said the meeting happened and the cards were handed over "if I'm a little bit off on the time". He said he would not say something like this if it wasn't true.

"Because you don't tell lies?" asked Mr Grehan.

"I met him in the park and he told me what he told me," said Dowdall.

Mr Grehan asked the witness did he even now accept that he is a person who tells lies when it suits him. "Everybody tells lies Mr Grehan," he replied.

Dowdall continued: "What I'm telling is the truth, the truth is the truth. I wasn't involved in David Byrne's murder, he told me he shot the kid and he met me in the park, do what you want, it's up to the court".

Counsel accused the witness of being an opportunistic liar. "You would say that," said Dowdall.

Dowdall added: "You have torn me to shreds up here for the last week all to get to this point. If judges don't believe me that's up to them. I've painted myself in a terrible light but that's the truth".

"It's lies," retorted Mr Grehan.

"You would say that," said Dowdall.

"Mr Dowdall thank you," concluded the barrister.

Dowdall has finished his cross-examination and the trial will continue on January 11th before presiding judge Ms Justice Tara Burns sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone. There is expected to be two more weeks of evidence left.

Dowdall (44) with an address at Navan Road, Cabra, Dublin 7 was due to stand trial for Mr Byrne's murder alongside Gerard Hutch but pleaded guilty in advance of the trial to a lesser charge of facilitating the Hutch gang by making a hotel room available for use by the perpetrators the night before the attack.

Mr Hutch's two co-accused - Paul Murphy (61), of Cherry Avenue, Swords, Co Dublin and Jason Bonney (50), of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, Dublin 13 have pleaded not guilty to participating in or contributing to the murder of David Byrne by providing access to motor vehicles on February 5th, 2016.

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