Friday 17 August 2018

'I heard two shots and saw him fall to the ground' - Murder trial hears eyewitness describe Gary Hutch killing

James Quinn
James Quinn

Gerard Couzens in Spain

ALLEGED assassin James Quinn shook his head today as the clothes recovered from his torched “getaway” car were dumped in front of him at his murder trial.

Jurors were allowed to touch the charred remains of garments prosecutors say the Dubliner was wearing when he gunned down Gary Hutch - and compare them to a new-looking baseball cap Quinn’s defence lawyer is turning into the key focus of his trial.

The Irishman turned his head from side to side in apparent disbelief as a court clerk opened up taped evidence bags and threw their contents on the floor in front of the witness stand for the jurors to feel and examine.

DNA obtained from the cap  - and matched to Quinn after undercover cops snatched a bottle of water he had drunk from while he was under surveillance nearly a year after Hutch’s horrific September 24 2015 Costa del Sol murder - proved crucial to his arrest.

The second day of Quinn’s trial for the murder - which unleashed a deadly feud between the Kinahan and Hutch families - started and finished with defence lawyer Pedro Apalategui questioning why the cap had only been mentioned in police reports after the DNA match and why it looked so different from the other badly-burnt clothes found in the getaway car.

He suggested it was a “comfortable” explanation that enabled the authorities to pin the blame on his client once they had his DNA and insisted he dissented from the police view that one of the screenshots taken from CCTV cameras at the murder scene showed Hutch’s killer wearing a baseball cap before he swapped it for a balaclava.

A Civil Guard officer involved in the early stages of the Gary Hutch murder probe, referred to only by his police number, told the court in Malaga trying 35-year-old father-of-one Quinn they had gone back over the footage and focused on the cap after realising its importance to the investigation.

A Spanish National Police investigator, who was also identified only by his service number, insisted as the clothes from the getaway BMW were laid out in front of him and jurors: “Local police helped to put the fire out with an extinguisher and although the upholstery inside was gutted, not everything was destroyed.

“There were some clothes on top of others and my understanding is they wouldn’t have received the same amount of heat.”

Earlier a witness to the murder on the gated residential estate in Miraflores near Fuengirola where Hutch lived told how he thought at first the killer and his victim were playing when he saw them running round the pool.

The witness, identified to the court only by his first name Jose, gave evidence from behind a partially-open door screening him from the public gallery and the alleged killer.

He told jurors: “I heard a loud noise and raced to the terrace and saw two men running round the swimming pool.

“I thought they were playing at first but then I saw one had a pistol in his hand and I realised it was something else.

“They reached a point where the victim had no way out and had to stop. He put his hands up and went ’No, no, no’ and then I heard two shots and saw him fall to the ground.

“The killer had a black balaclava and black gloves on.”

Like the witness, most of the police who gave evidence did so behind the same half-open door so they were only seen by the lawyers and part of the jury.

One chief investigator told the court officers had quickly determined Daniel Kinahan had ordered Hutch’s murder but were unable to establish exactly why.

He said Quinn was named as the potential killer in an internal Garda report they were sent as part of a shared intelligence operation.

He revealed Spanish police also linked him to the Kinahan family after concluding he had been picked up from his torched getaway car by a Peugeot 206 registered to his late mum and driven by two Romanian brothers Quinn lived with.

A second vehicle allegedly used as a look-out car was linked by detectives to a woman described as Daniel’s then-Romanian partner, the police officer told the court in a statement which was at times barely audible to the press and public.

He also told how Quinn, one of five people arrested over the Gary Hutch murder but the only one to be charged and put on trial, had a photo of Daniel Kinahan’s mum Jean Boylan in his wallet when he was arrested.

Referring to a taped phone conversation Quinn had with a relative hours after innocent dad Trevor O’Neill was shot dead in Majorca in August 2016 when he was mistaken for a member of the Hutch family, he added: “Before it was publicly known the killer in that crime had got the wrong person, he was talking to the relative in code and referring to a tattoo with the word ‘failed.’

“That showed clearly he was a member of a drugs trafficking organisation.

“We attributed the Gary Hutch murder to the Kinahan clan early on and concluded James Quinn was the material author of the crime with assistance from others after that.”

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.

Kinahan gang member David Byrne, one of the victims, was shot dead in February 2016 at the Regency Hotel in Dublin during a weigh-in for a boxing match.

In August 2016 Trevor O’Neill was killed while he was on holiday in Majorca with his family.

Hutch, 34, was reportedly living at the complex where he was killed after returning to Spain following the brokering of a €200,000 deal to compensate the Kinahan crime cartel for 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.

State prosecutors want Quinn jailed for life if he is found guilty of Hutch’s murder. He 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 and insists he was in bed with a hangover and a prostitute when Gary Hutch, nephew of Gerry 'the Monk Hutch, was killed.

The trial, expected to finish on Thursday before jurors retire to consider their verdict, continues tomorrow when jurors are due to be shown CCTV footage of the fatal point-blank-range shooting.

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