Alison O'Riordan and Eoin Reynolds
After hearing evidence for 52 days, the Special Criminal Court will deliver a judgment in April in the trial of Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch, who is charged with the murder of Kinahan Cartel member David Byrne at the Regency Hotel, and his two co-accused who deny participating in the murder.
Presiding judge Ms Justice Tara Burns, sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone, said the court would notify parties if the judgment for the three accused is available before April 17th next.
Earlier on the final day of the trial, the defence barrister for a builder, who denies participating in the murder of Mr Byrne, gave his closing speech to the non-jury court submitting that there are a number of holes in the prosecution's case.
Senior counsel John Fitzgerald, for Jason Bonney, noted that the case put forward by the DPP to associate his client with a BMW X5 "at all times" and specifically at St Vincent's GAA grounds on February 5th 2016 was a "light or thin case". Mr Bonney's jeep is alleged to have been used by him to transport a man in a flat cap, who minutes earlier had raided the Regency Hotel, away from St Vincent's GAA grounds on the day of the shooting.
The State's 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. Mr Murray died from motor neurone disease in 2017 before he could be brought to trial.
Gerard 'The Monk' 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 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.
Tactical team escape
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 was central to the case of Mr Bonney and Mr Murphy.
A BMW X5 which the prosecution say was driven by Mr Bonney on the day and Mr Murphy's light coloured Toyota Avensis taxi are alleged to have been part of a convoy that parked up at St Vincent's GAA club grounds before the shooting and then transported the assailants from the Regency Hotel shooting after a Ford transit van was abandoned.
It is Jason Bonney's defence that on February 5th, he never drove his jeep, which the prosecution say was used in the attack, south of Newbrook Avenue, Donaghmede, [north of the Regency Hotel] but his father William Bonnie did.
Closing the defence case for Mr Bonney on Thursday, John Fitzgerald SC said he would be suggesting to the court that there are a number of holes in the prosecution's case.
Counsel said there was no obligation on his client to put anything into the case, but he had by way of interview and the answers he gave gardaí. He said on February 21st 2016 Mr Bonney put into the case that he was in the vicinity of Newbrook Avenue at the time of the Regency shooting.
The second aspect of the case, he said, was that there was a transfer of the BMW on the day and that the vehicle was driven south of the location by his father William Bonney where the accused always maintained it was. However, he said Jason Bonney had not made that case when he was "doorstepped" by garda and had an uncautioned conversation with them on February 21st followed up by two interviews on May 27th 2016.
Evidence has been given that now retired Detective Garda Alan Crummey said he went to Mr Bonney's house on February 21st 2016, the day after the 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.
Counsel acknowledged that there was always a danger of putting something into a case that can detract from the focus of a criminal trial but submitted the DPP's case put forward to associate Mr Bonney with the BMw at all times on February 5t and specifically at St Vincent's GAA grounds was a "light or thin case".
Why he said that, the lawyer stated, was because towards the end of the case when the strands were being pulled together by Garda Michele Purcell and intelligence analyst Sarah Skedd he had asked them to confirm what the State's case showed and Ms Skedd was the first to concede the limits of her analysis. "There was nothing to show that Mr Bonney himself through his phone or being seen on CCTV had travelled south of where he claimed to have been all along," he submitted.
Furthermore, Mr Fitzgerald said the accused's phone didn't go south of Donaghmede Shopping Centre. In case there was a sinister suggestion that Mr Bonney's phone was turned off, he said Ms Skedd was clear to say that his phone was not turned off at that time and all that happened was he did not make a call or send a text.
Mr Fitzgerald said there was no issue in the case about his client's phone. However, he said the use of the jeep, registered to his father's dormant company and address, was a much more complicated matter.
In his closing speech, Bernard Condon SC for Paul Murphy said the prosecution had failed to prove its case against Mr Murphy to the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. He said the prosecution had offered a "broad brush stroke of propositions and assertions" that were not supported by the evidence.
Mr Condon said the court was being invited to convict based on "guilt by association" and "guilt by suspicion" rather than proof beyond reasonable doubt. He added: "The blanks in the prosecution case cannot be filled in by supposition or suspicion".
Mr Condon also said that to prove the case of facilitating a criminal organisation, the prosecution has to prove the existence of the criminal organisation and that Mr Murphy had knowledge of it.
"What exactly is the Hutch organised crime gang?" counsel asked. He said there was "very limited evidence on that" other than that it was an "intergenerational gang". He said there was no specific evidence that Mr Hutch's brothers Patsy or Neddie were members of the Hutch organisation on the day of the Regency murder and no evidence that Patsy Hutch was involved in crime prior to the Regency. Paul Murphy, counsel said, knew Patsy Hutch through his legitimate taxi business.
Mr Condon questioned the quality of CCTV evidence which the prosecution alleges shows his client's taxi in convoy with other cars allegedly used to transport people to and from the Regency attack.
Mr Condon said that his client's silver Toyota Avensis cannot be identified on the CCTV and he pointed out that a taxi driver who gave evidence during the trial said that silver Toyotas are one of the most common cars used as taxis in Dublin. He said one of the identifying features of the car that the prosecution sought to rely on was that the tax and insurance discs were in the bottom left corner of the windscreen. Mr Condon described that as "practically meaningless" as "99.99 per cent of cars have tax and insurance on the bottom left-hand side".
He said the CCTV was not high definition and no number plates or other identifying features could be made out. He questioned whether stickers, tyres and other features pointed to by the prosecution were actually visible or useful as identifiers in much of the footage.
The prosecution also alleged that taxi receipts found in Mr Murphy's car for the day of the shooting were manufactured to provide him with "some kind of alibi". Mr Condon said there was no evidence that the taxi metre had been correctly calibrated and it could have been out by a day or more.
Mr Condon asked the court to ignore a suggestion by his client to gardaí that his taxi could have been "cloned". Counsel said that there has been evidence that cloning is an issue for taxi drivers but in the end Mr Murphy does not rely on that for his defence.
The prosecution also alleged that a key card found in Mr Murphy's car could be used to access Buckingham Village, a residential complex that they said was the "centre" of the operation. Mr Condon said there was no detail given about where exactly the "centre" was. "Is it in a flat? If so, what flat? Is it more than one flat?". He asked if the centre was a car park, a car, a van, who was at the centre and could a person see and hear what others at the alleged centre were doing.
He said that the prosecution offered Buckingham Village as "the centre of everything and if Mr Murphy's car is there, you can put two and two together and get 600. I say, you can't."
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.