Wednesday 20 February 2019

Gary Hutch murder accused may not have been the gunman, prosecutor says

James Quinn
James Quinn

Gerard Couzens

ALLEGED gangland assassin James Quinn may not have been the gunman that killed Gary Hutch, a state prosecutor said today.

Jurors were told they could consider the option the 35-year-old Dubliner was the getaway driver if they could not agree he was the person who chased Hutch round a Spanish swimming pool and shot him dead at close range.

State prosecutor Jose Barba offered his alternative version of the events leading up to the brutal September 24 2015 killing in a shock eleventh-hour change on the third and penultimate day of Quinn’s murder trial.

He told the court in Malaga trying Quinn he was still seeking a murder conviction and the same life sentence for the Irishman as a “necessary participant” in the killing - even if jurors could not support his principal argument that he pulled the trigger.

The unexpected modification - laid out in a three-page alternative indictment to the original accusation  - followed a sustained defence challenge to prosecution claims Quinn was filmed swapping a baseball cap for a balaclava before chasing Hutch down.

A black Oakley baseball cap containing Quinn’s DNA was found in the getaway BMW X3 torched a few miles from the gated residential estate in Miraflores near Fuengirola where Hutch, 34, was living.

It was the only one of the garments - rescued from the vehicle along with two pistols - which suffered no fire damage.

Quinn’s defence lawyer Pedro Apalategui has challenged police and prosecution claims a poor-quality CCTV image taken just before the killing showed a man shielding his face with the visor of a baseball cap poking out from behind his arm.

The original state prosecution indictment stated Quinn headed to Hutch’s home after receiving orders to kill him with one or more people and “shot him twice in the head from close range” after laying in wait for him as his companion or companions waited int the getaway vehicle outside.

The alternative, handed to judge Ernesto Carlos Manzano today at the close of the third session and attributing the fatal shooting to an “unknown person”, states: “The accused James Quinn, acting in concert with another person whose identity has not been proven, and after receiving from an unknown person the order to end to Gary Hutch’s life and executing a pre-conceived plan, went with that person to the victim’s home in a stolen BMW.

“Once they arrived, the accused James Quinn waited inside the vehicle to act as a look-out and ensure their subsequent getaway while his companion got inside the complex.”

The document also drops any mention of a baseball cap.

Today’s hearing started with the nine-strong jury being shown chilling footage of the entire sequence of events leading up to the murder which sparked an ongoing deadly feud between the Kinahan and Hutch families.

Hutch, nephew of Kinahan rival Gerry ‘the Monk’ Hutch, could be seen racing from an underground garage in a mustard-yellow top and grey shorts with the all-in-black masked assassin close behind brandishing a pistol.

Father-of-one Quinn stared impassively at a large TV screen replaying the grisly crime.

A Civil Guard officer, wearing a balaclava to mask his face for security reasons, gave a running commentary alongside the judge.

“You can clearly see how the victim is pursued by his killer in a circular fashion round the swimming pool,” the investigator said.

“The first time they run round he has an advantage but on the second lap the attacker catches up with him.

“He leaves after he has executed the plan he came to carry out.”

Contrasting the footage of the gunman sprinting round the pool before the shooting to the images of him walking up the last part of the ramp leading to the gated exit on his way out, the unidentified Civil Guard adds: “You can see he’s more tired. He almost stumbles and falls as he scales the perimeter fence before being picked up by the getaway car.”

Hutch was seen slumping dead on the ground in the sickening footage, and the detonation from the killer’s gun could be seen in the bottom left-hand corner of the TV screen, but both men were not in the same shot when the murder occurred.

A forensic pathologist involved in the Hutch post-mortem, who did not say his name in open court, said he had suffered eight injuries caused by four gunshot wounds.

One punctured his lung and the “killer” two bullets, fired from a distance of “40 to 50 centimetres” and “approximately a metre,” hit him in the head.

A Civil Guard ballistics expert, identified only by his service number, said nine shell casings from the 9 millimetre Glock 256 semi-automatic pistol were found at the murder scene but there was no evidence a .45 semi-automatic COLT 1911 pistol found in the getaway car had been used.

A colleague who calculated Quinn’s height based on screen-grabs taken from the CCTV images said he had estimated the killer was 1.82 metres with an error margin of three centimetres - before the Irishman was identified as a suspect and measured barefoot at 1.85 metres after his September 2016 arrest.

Jurors also heard a factory-issue semi-automatic pistol which had been modified so it became an automatic “weapon of war” had been found among Quinn’s belongings during a police search of his upmarket Spanish home.

Speaking outside court, state prosecutor Jose Barba said he stood by his original premise Quinn was the gunman but was seeking to safeguard the chances of a murder conviction if the jury had doubts with his alternative indictment.

He admitted he had decided to offer jurors the new option in the early hours of this morning during a sleepless night.

The ongoing gangland feud said to have been sparked by Hutch’s murder has cost the lives of at least 15 people in Ireland and Spain.

Hutch was reportedly living at the complex where he was killed after returning to Spain following the brokering of a EUROS 200,000 deal to compensate the Kinahan crime cartel after a botched attempt to shoot Daniel Kinahan at his rented Spanish home.

Daniel, the son of Christy Kinahan, was unharmed but innocent Jamie Moore, a former light-middleweight boxing champion who was staying at the property, was shot twice by mistake and narrowly escaped death. The August 3 2014 crime remains unsolved.

Quinn is also on trial for illegal weapons possession and faces a three-year prison sentence if convicted.

The father-of-one says he is innocent of Hutch's murder and the gun charge and insists he was in bed with a hangover and a prostitute at the time of the murder.

Jurors are expected to be sent out tomorrow to consider their verdict after closing speeches by lawyers.

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