Dowdall defends ‘necessity lie’ about Regency in 2016 interview with Garda

Former Sinn Fein councilor Jonathan Dowdall said he told a “necessity lie” in interviews with Garda in 2016 about what he knew about the Regency shooting.

A video of Gardai interviewing Mr Dowdall in May 2016 was released during the trial of Gerard “The Monk” Hutch for the murder of David Byrne.

Mr Byrne was killed at a crowded boxing weigh-in event on February 5, 2016, in one of the first deadly attacks in the Hutch-Kinahan gang feud.

Hutch, of the Paddocks, Clontarf, denied the murder charge.

Dowdall, who was due to stand trial for murder, is serving a four-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to facilitating the murder of Mr Byrne.

On his fourth day of testimony in the Special Criminal Court, a tense cross-examination was conducted by lead defense attorney Brendan Grehan of key state witness Dowdall.

Before playing the tapes, recorded on May 18, 2016, Mr Grehan told the court they described Dowdall as “a very indignant and persuasive person”, but told the court he was lying.

Mr Grehan told Mr Dowdall he was “very persuasive”, to which Mr Dowdall replied “suggest whatever you want Mr Grehan”.

“One way or another, I was always going to tell the truth about this situation.”

Mr. Dowdall would later tell Mr. Grehan, “From the day I walked in here, you’ve called me a liar.”

In Garda interview tapes, Dowdall is heard defending Hutch as “a quiet man” who is respected in his community, adding that he was not a close friend of Hutch.

“To be honest, I like the man. I respect him.

“I wouldn’t say I was ever a trusted friend (of Gerard Hutch). I have no relationship with Gerard. I didn’t drink with Gerard.

On the Garda interview video, when asked if Hutch had discussed the Regency shooting, the guns, or the transport with Dowdall, he said no.

When asked if Hutch would discuss it with him, he told Gardai he would not.

“Why would he? I am not a criminal,” he replied.

Later in the tapes, Dowdall tells Gardai of Hutch, “I was never involved in his circle and never have been in my life.

“He (Gerry Hutch) never told me he was involved in it (the Regency). And if he was involved in it, I don’t think he would be stupid enough to tell me, you know, let’s be honest .

Court artist’s sketch of Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch listening to former Sinn Fein adviser Jonathan Dowdall testify during the trial (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Asked about the times he met Hutch, Dowdall said he would have been home “two or three times before” Regency was filming for a Sinn Fein fundraiser.

He added that no politician would admit it and mentioned ‘Mary Lou’.

He later said Mr Hutch was home ‘long before the regency to discuss the club’ and then ‘once or twice’ afterwards.

Dowdall was seen wearing a sky blue hoodie and sitting in a small room with two gardai and his lawyer present during the recordings.

When cross-examined on the evidence he gave to Gardai, Dowdall told the court that he “did not know the context” at the time and that he did not know that the room booked had been implicated in the murder.

He told the court that Gerard Hutch’s brother, Patsy Hutch, whom Dowdall repeatedly described as a friend, told him he had “nothing to do with the Regency murder.”

Asked about his statements to Gardai that Gerard Hutch was a good man, Dowdall said: “A good man and his brother wouldn’t do that to a person they’ve known for years, (ask him) to book a room ( be used in a murder.) Who’s doing this?

Responding to his statement to Gardai that Hutch was silent and not close to him, Dowdall said Hutch turned to him for help following the Regency shooting because things had “gone badly”.

“He planned to go in and kill Daniel Kinahan and blame the IRA,” he said.

When asked if he had lied to Gardai, Dowdall told the court: ‘It was a lie out of necessity, my family would have been killed if I had said I knew who was involved in the Regency.

“That’s why I’m in a mess where I am, because I didn’t answer the questions.

“Because I didn’t say things I should have said, I was charged with murder.”

He later added that there were “huge consequences if I told the guards I couldn’t afford to take”.

Toward the end of Thursday’s evidence, Dowdall told the court, “You learn a lot in six years.”

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Grehan repeatedly questioned why Dowdall pleaded guilty to facilitating the murder if he did not know what the hotel room would be used for.

This refers to Dowdall and his father Patrick booking a room at the Regency Hotel which was used by a man, believed to be one of the gunmen, the night before the fatal attack.

Gerry Hutch court case

Court artist’s sketch of former Sinn Fein councilor Jonathan Dowdall, cross-examined by Hutch defense lawyer Brendan Grehan (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Mr Dowdall said he and his father had been ‘reckless’ in not asking what the room would be used for.

“I participated in the reservation of a room, I did not know what it was going to be used for. But by booking a room, I am guilty and responsible (of facilitating the murder),” he told the court.

“It was all reckless,” he said. “If someone asks for a favor, I don’t ask questions.

“I would never do it again, I should have wondered if I should have done that, my dad should have done that, we were reckless.”

In response to Dowdall’s claim that the defense was “picking and choosing” lines, Mr Grehan asked if Dowdall thought he was being unfair.

Dowdall said: “I think you are doing your best to destroy me in any way possible.”

The court heard that Dowdall was due to be cross-examined until Tuesday next week and earlier sittings may be needed to ensure he does not continue beyond Wednesday.

Two other men, Paul Murphy, 59, of Cabra Road, Swords, and Jason Bonney, 50, of Drumnigh Wood in Portmarnock, also pleaded not guilty to lesser charges relating to the murder.

The three defendants sat next to each other in the dock, with Mr Hutch seen using a hearing aid.

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