Monday 10 December 2018

Gardaí 'immediately' recognised Regency Hotel murder accused from photo taken at scene, court hears

The Regency Hotel
The Regency Hotel
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

TWO gardai who identified the Regency Hotel gun murder accused Patrick Hutch from a photograph taken at the scene said he had been the victim of a shooting two years earlier.

The detectives said they “immediately” recognised Mr Hutch as a man in a woman's wig, having questioned him over the previous shooting in which he was injured.

The two gardai were giving evidence at the Special Criminal Court today, where Mr Hutch’s defence lawyer has objected to the admissibility of their testimony.

Mr Hutch (25), from Champion's Avenue, in the north inner city, is pleading not guilty to murdering David Byrne and possession of three assault rifles.

Murder accused Patrick Hutch
Murder accused Patrick Hutch

Mr Byrne (33), from Crumlin, was shot dead by a “tactical team” of gunmen dressed as gardai who stormed the hotel along with a man wearing a blonde woman’s wig and another in a flat cap.

Prosecutors claim Mr Hutch was identified as the man dressed as a woman.

They do not allege the accused shot Mr Byrne but that he participated in the February 5, 2016 raid and shared intent to commit the crimes.

Defence barrister Michael O’Higgins SC said he was objecting to the admissibility of the identification evidence.

Detective Sergeant Patrick O’Toole from Ballymun Station said he was made aware of the possibility of photographs that had been taken at the scene and went to Independent House with a warrant on February 5 and introduced himself to editors there.

He was then introduced to photographer Colin O’Riordan and an iphone was taken from him. Det Sgt O’Toole also made contact with photographer Ernie Leslie and seized a memory card with photographs he had taken.

On February 7, Detective Gardai Fergal O’Flaherty and Jonathan Brady came to Ballymun Station, where they were taken to the telephonic room being run by Garda Michael Ryan.

Garda Ryan was facing them behind a desk and the computer on which they were to view the image had its back to them.

Det Sgt O’Toole asked Det Gda O’Flaherty to come around the desk and view the image that was on the screen - this was a photograph of a man wearing a wig and holding what appeared to be a handgun.

Detective Garda O’Flaherty stated that he recognised the person on the left in the image.

Det Sgt O’Toole said he gestured to Det Gda O’Flaherty and the two walked toward the door, he said.

Det Sgt O’Toole said he asked Det Sgt Brady to go behind the desk to view the same image while he stepped out into the corridor with Det Gda O’Flahery.

Det Gda O’Flaherty indicated to him that he recognised the person on the left in the “female clothing” and did not recognise the person on the right.

“He recognised him as a victim he had dealt with, as Patrick Hutch,” Det Sgt O’Toole said.

In 2014, Det Gda O’Flaherty had said, Mr Hutch had been the victim of a shooting and he had dealt with him on numerous occasions in relation to that, as well as community policing.

Det Sgt O’Toole went back into the telephonic room after asking Det Gda O’Flaherty to go back to his office.

“As I was doing so, Det Gda Brady was coming out and he informed me that he had also identified the person on the left in the photograph and described that person,” he said. “He informed me that he recognised that person as Patrick Hutch.”

He said Det Gda Brady also referred to the 2014 investigation and that he had had numerous interactions with Mr Hutch since.

On May 4, he told prosecutor Sean Gillane SC, PSNI Detective Inspector John Caldwell viewed the image and recognised the person on the right as Kevin Murray. On a later date, he travelled to Omagh and Det Insp Caldwell was shown CCTV taken at the Regency on February 4, the day before the attack.

Detr Insp Caldwell identified Kevin Murray as being in the hotel on that evening.

Detective Inspector David Gallagher gave evidence that hard copies were initially shown to gardai at stations, then e-mailed to superintendents and inspectors.

Det Gda Fergal O’Flaherty gave evidence he went to Ballymun Station with his work partner Det Gda Brady. The telephonic room was a tight office full of clutter and he had to walk around the desk.

He viewed the image beside Garda Ryan and “immediately recognised the person to the left with their hand up to their head.”

“I let it be known that I knew who that person was,” he told the court.

Mr Gillane asked him who that was.

“The man before the court, Patrick Hutch,” he replied.

“I let them know I knew who it was, I made my way around from where I was. I left the room and spoke to Detective Sergeant O’Toole outside the office. I told him that was Patrick Hutch. I told him that I knew him.”

He said he would have known Mr Hutch since the accused was “a young fella” coming and going, and would have mentioned the time when he was an injured party and turned up at the Mater Hospital with gunshot injuries in 2014.

In 2015, he said, he invited Mr Hutch to come in and make a statement and spoke to him on numerous occasions.

At that time, he “would have been clean shaven” as opposed to the way he looks now.

Mr Hutch had always been very mannerly, he said.

Cross-examined by Mr O’Higgins, he clarified that when he “let it be known”, he said he knew who the person in the picture was and did not use a name.

Det Gda Jonathan Brady then told the court Det Gda O’Flaherty looked at the image and said “I know that person,” and “I’m saying nothing.”

At that stage, he said, Det Gda O’Flaherty came out from behind the desk  and left the room.

Det Gda Brady went in beside Gda Ryan and looked at the image that was put up on the screen.

“I immediately recognised the person on the left as Patrick Hutch,” he said. “He is the accused before the court. I told him I was 100pc certain of it, I had absolutely no doubt about it. He said ‘Patrick Hutch’”.

Det Gda Brady said he had been in the north central division for 18 years and knew Patrick Hutch and some of his family.

He also gave evidence of Mr Hutch attending hospital with a gunshot wound on August 15, 2014.

“I spoke to him that evening and he refused to make a complaint,” he said.

Over the following weeks, he said, Mr Hutch had been discharged and he called to his house but he was not there.

Mr Hutch later came back to Mountjoy Garda Station and when asked what happened he would not tell gardai anything about it.

He would not make a statement or a complaint. When Det Gda Brady bumped into him in the following weeks he tried to encourage him to make a complaint but he did not.

He was later interviewed about “where he was going in life” and told gardai he was intending to go back into boxing. He was working as an electrician at the time.

In cross examination, he agreed with Mr O’Higgins that Mr Hutch had no previous convictions but had been a person of interest and a person who was well known to the gardai.

“There is no way of avoiding the reality that he is, for want of a better description a Hutch, and that has a certain resonance for an Garda Siochana,” Mr O’Higgins said.

“We certainly have an interest in some of the Hutches,” Det Gda Brady agreed.

Mr O’Higgins said when Mr Hutch’s father went to a garda station in 1999 to get a passport, it was recorded on the Pulse system that his three children were being put on that passport.

Patrick Hutch was 7 years of age and the gardai were interested in keeping information about him, Mr O’Higgins said.

“There is a family tree in the Pulse record referring to his brother Gary Hutch who was shot dead in Spain,” Mr O’Higgins said.

The garda said he had not seen it but was not disputing it.

There were 37 incidences or events in relation to Patrick Hutch on the record which, apart from the gunshot wound, were “pretty small stuff”, Mr O’’Higgins said.

Det Gda Brady confirmed he had arrested Patrick Hutch in relation to withholding information following the shooting in which he was a victim.

Mr O’Higgins put it to Det Gda Brady that statements he and Det Gda O’Flaherty made about how the identified Mr Hutch from the photograph were similar and had omitted similar information.

As cross-examination continued into the afternoon, Judge Tony Hunt noted there were suggestions of "false evidence" being given.

This was denied by garda witnesses.

Mr O’Higgins said both Det Gda O'Flaherty and Det Gda Brady in their February 12, 2016 statements about making the identification had left out any reference to Garda O’Flaherty going around the desk, saying he recognised the person and leaving the room. Neither had stated that Det Gda Brady made his identification while Det Gda O’Flaherty was out of the room. Det Gda Brady had not stated that he met Det Sgt O’Toole in the corridor and said to him there that it was Patrick Hutch.

Det Gda Brady told the court he thought the nub of the statement was that he identified the person and other information was not relevant enough.

Mr O’Higgins then put to him a transcript of a High Court bail application made by Mr Hutch on December 21, 2016, in which Det Gda Brady gave evidence.

In it, Mr O’Higgins said he had asked Det Gda Brady if Det Gda O’Flaherty had been in the room with him during the identification and he said he had been.

According to the transcript, Det Gda Brady had then said he would outline “exactly what did happen.”

“We walked into the room, we met Det Sgt O’Toole, who introduced us to Garda Mick Ryan,” he said in the transcript. “Det Gda O’Flaherty stood in front of the monitor...he stood and looked and he said ‘I’ll let you look’ and he stepped back. I said ‘I know who that is’ and I said who it was and he said the same.”

Mr O’Higgins said that implied there was an overt discussion.

Det Gda Brady said before Det Gda O’Flaherty let him look he first said he was “saying nothing.”

Det Gda Brady said what he had said now was not at loggerheads with the transcripts but was “a more detailed account.”

In the transcript, the garda had said he knew the danger was “blatantly obvious” in someone making an identification in another’s presence because they could be influencing or “tarnishing” the other.

“I am sure if it was envisaged that either of us would make an identification, it would have been arranged that neither of us was in each other’s company, but we didn’t know what we were going to see until we saw it,” he said.

Mr O’Higgins said Det Gda Brady had never volunteered to the High Court in the bail application that the two gardai had actually been separated during the identification.

The court heard Det Gda Brady said during the bail application he had been aware that the Hutch Kinahan feud was something that was being “looked at” in the investigation.

In continued cross examination, he told Mr O’Higgins there was no independent supervisor during the identification.

Mr O’Higgins said Det Sgt O’Toole had said in his first statement that he was in the room when Det Gda Brady made his identification, but in his second statement and evidence, he  was “nowhere near” the room.

Mr O’Higgins said the gardai had now “come up with fairly elaborate descriptions of people stepping in and out of the room” that dovetailed and asked Det Gda Brady if this was people exercising their memory.

He said it was.

Detective Brady also told the court he was in the interview room in May 2016 when Mr Hutch was arrested.

When it was put to Mr Hutch that he had been identified in a photograph, the accused did not react and sat with a jumper over his head.

Det Gda O’Flaherty was then cross examined.

“I wish I could have organised it differently at the time, but I couldn’t”, he said of the identification process, Mr O’Higgins asked him why.

“It would get rid of all this nonsense,” he replied.

Mr O’Higgins asked him what he meant.

“What you are getting at now, that this is contrived,” Det Gda O’Flaherty replied.

Mr O’Higgins said accounts given since their initial statements were “contradictory.”

Det Gda O’Flaherty said omissions from his original statement were clarified in a later one.

He said when he viewed the photogarphs he did not know what part the man had played.

Mr O’Higgins said he knew it was a murder investigation.

Det Gda O’Flaherty said the first statement he made was a “typical” one.

Mr O’Higgins asked him what the purpose was of him leaving the room after he had “let them know I knew who it was.”

“If I had said his name out loud there and then, Johnny’s identification would have been no good,” he replied.

He said he wanted to tell Det Sgt O’Toole of his identification independent of Det Gda Brady.

Mr O’Higgins said there was nothing in the garda’s first statement to suggest they were ever separated.

“There is nothing to say we were together either,” Det Gda O’Flaherty replied.

In cross-examination, Det Sgt O’Toole said he was aware an investigator did not conduct identity parades “to show there’s no form of collusion.”

This was not an identity parade, he said.

Mr O’Higgins said there would be evidence from Northern Ireland, where various safeguards and procedures were put in place and that had not happened in this case.

Mr O’Higgins the situation was if the photo was identified it might had given gardai a lead in the investigation or might have been used as evidence against that person.

“In this trial it’s the only evidence against that person,” he said.

He asked Det Sgt O’Toole if he saw anything wrong in principle with two gardai going in at the same time to view that material.

“They certainly didn’t view it together,” Det Sgt O’Toole replied.

Cross examination continues tomorrow.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News