Sunday 15 December 2019

Judge orders all under 18s out of Special Criminal Court before graphic CCTV footage of Regency attack is played

The Regency Hotel
The Regency Hotel
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

A JUDGE ordered everyone under the age of 18 out of the Special Criminal Court before shocking video footage was played of the shooting dead of a father-of-two in the Regency Hotel gangland attack.

CCTV footage taken in the hotel captured the moment David Byrne (33) was shot by two gunmen dressed as a garda “tactical team” as he fled amid scenes of panic.

Victim David Byrne
Victim David Byrne

The graphic video was played back in the trial of Patrick Hutch Jnr, along with a series of clips that showed the gunmen running around the hotel while patrons, including women and children fled.

In all, the attack was seen to last six minutes from the time the first raiders got out of their van to the time they all returned.

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.

Mr Byrne (33), from Crumlin, was shot dead by 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, from Crumlin, but that he participated in the February 5, 2016 raid and shared intent to commit the crimes.

Before the footage was played, Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, warned the court that there were “certain portions of the footage that aren’t easy to watch.”

Judge Tony Hunt, sitting with two other judges, noted that there were schoolchildren in the public gallery and said he had a case “a couple of years ago where the nature of the material was such that it was necessary to exclude the public.”

Mr Gillane said it was “only a small portion” of the footage, but the judge made the exclusion order.

Garda Michelle Purcell then led the court through the footage, which began with the movments of various vehicles including a silver van near the hotel in Whitehall before and after the attack.

The CCTV then showed the “man in a wig” and “man in a flat cap”, the first two raiders, to leave the van and enter the hotel at 2.28pm. The three “tactical team” gunmen, referred to as Tac 1, Tac 2 and Tac 3 then left the van four minutes later, at 2.32pm.

They were all seen returning to the van at 2.34pm.

Inside the hotel, the footage showed Mr Byrne running from the direction of the function room into the lobby.

“Tac 1” was seen pointing his gun at Mr Byrne, who fell and skidded across the floor, coming to a halt at the reception desk.

“Tac 2” was then seen on the footage coming in through the front door and shooting Mr Byrne  again, as he lies mostly out of the frame, only part of his white runners and part of his grey trousers visible.

“Tac 2” is then seen from another camera view jumping up on the reception desk and aiming back down at Mr Byrne, shooting him again.

In another scene, Garda Purcell said, blood was visible splattering after another man was shot at the entrance.

Elsewhere, one woman was seen pushing a buggy as a large group of people fled through the lobby while another was seeing running and carrying a child in her arms.

Earlier this afternoon, hotel receptionist Kristijonas Vezys said he was in the area reception when he saw two “garda-looking men” come in. They had AK47-type guns which he thought was unusual.

People were running out towards them and the receptionist went into hiding in an area behind the desk, where a BBC journalist joined him.

Ernie Leslie, a freelance photographer contracted to the Sunday World, said he was working at the hotel with journalist Alan Sherry and they were covering the weigh-in event.

They were parked at the bottom of the Seven Oaks estate, facing toward the hotel.

He heard a loud bang before he saw people running in a panicked state.

It became apparent then that it was a gunshot and they drove to the front of the hotel, where he became aware of a silver van parked outside.

A hand appeared at the driver’s door window, which was open and the hand came out, holding an assault rifle.

He stopped his vehicle and grabbed his camera to take a photo of the car with the gun and as he was doing that, he noticed a man running towards them from the direction of the car park, who seemed to have something in his hand.

It “didn’t look right” and Mr Leslie photographed him as he ran. Mr Sherry shouted that a gun was being pointed at them so he reversed.

A number of photographs he had taken were shown to him.

Sunday World crime correspondent Alan Sherry said there had been a lot of commotion and he saw a person had an assault rifle sticking out of a van.

“I think he was pointing at a man to the right of him, on the footpath,” Mr Sherry said.

There was “a chap with an assault rifle” and a lot of people were running and cowering in corners.

“The person with the assault rifle turned and pointed it towards us,” Mr Sherry said. “I shouted at Ernie to reverse the car.”

Mr Gillane asked if Mr Leslie was aware the gun was being pointed at them.

“Not initially, he was when I shouted at him,” Mr Sherry replied.

Dublin Fire Brigade Paramedic Joe Brady said he went to the scene after receiving a page that there were “multiple gunshot injuries” at the Regency Hotel.

He saw one person injured when he arrived and while a colleague dealt with that, he was “told to check the lobby.”

“I could tell there was something not right when I asked was anyone else hurt and I was told to check the lobby,” he said.

He saw a man lying there with “significant, catastrophic head injuries” lying against the reception desk.

In a quick assessment, he noted the man had injuries to his face and head that were “incompatible with life.” He was not breathing, had no pulse and it was “very hard to identify where the entry andf exit wounds were.”

There was gunshot casing around the body and a smell that was “exactly like” the smell of a firing range.

A woman calmly approached and said there were more people injured inside, Mr Brady said.

He was concerned that they were entering a “mass casualty incident” at that stage and there would be patients who needed to be triaged.

The man in the reception was “beyond help,” he said.

He saw an injured man lying on the ground who was conscious and had sustained what appeared to be a gunshot wound to the leg.

Garda Inspector Barry Butler gave evidence of identifying Mr Byrne's body when he arrived at the hotel.

Earlier, one of the gunmen in the gangland raid of the Regency Hotel shot over an innocent man’s head outside and shouted “get the f**k out of here” before running inside, a witness said.

An Independent News and Media photographer covering the boxing weigh-in said he also saw a puff of smoke coming from the barrel of one of the raiders' guns a few feet away.

The hotel's owner said he got a "bad feeling" when he went outside during the shooting expecting to see the garda "riot squad" but there was nothing there.

Evidence was being heard at the Special Criminal Court today in the trial of Patrick Hutch Jnr, who is charged with murdering father-of-two David Byrne.

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

Mr Byrne (33), from Crumlin, was shot dead by a “tactical team” of armed raiders 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, from Crumlin, but that he participated in the February 5, 2016 raid and shared intent to commit the crimes.

INM photographer Colin O’Riordan told the court he had been asked to attend the boxing weigh-in by the Herald newsdesk and met journalist Robin Schiller there. After they had been inside working, they went back outside to the main entrance.

Mr O’Riordan heard a loud bang which he recognised as a gunshot, coming from the front of a van.

Two men then emerged and ran in front of him. His first impression was that they were gardai because they were dressed in paramilitary or ERU-style helmets and appeared to have anti-stab jackets. Emblazoned on the back was “garda,” he said. They were carrying Kalashnikov rifles, Mr O'Riordan said.

A second shot was fired while the two men were on the steps and he could “see the smoke coming from the barrell.”

The two men went into the main entrance and were followed by another. Mr Schiller’s response was to “get the f**k out of there.”

He heard another shot from behind and peered around and saw the muzzle of what appeared to be another Kalashnikov coming from the window of the van.

The “chap” fired in the air above the head of an innocent person who was walking through and shouted “get the f**k out of here,” Mr O’Riordan said. This person ran into bushes.

He heard shots being fired in the reception area and could see a man there “cowering down.”

Mr O’Riordan saw one of the gunmen standing on the reception desk, pointing a Kalashnikov right at the man, then he turned and jumped back down into the reception area beyond his view.

The gunmen then came back out and down the steps.

Mr O’Riordan said he took half a step back and said: “Garda, I don’t know where I am supposed to be”.

“They promptly ignored me and walked past me at a brisk pace,” he said.

He briefly caught sight of a man dressed as a woman, who had a hand up to his wig, he did not know whether this was to take it off or put it on.

The third gunman had joined the other two at the side of the van.

The man dressed as a woman said “I don’t know where he is, I couldn’t f**king find him,” while another voice said: “get the f**k out of here,” before they got into the van, Mr O’Riordan said.

In cross-examination, he told Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, he heard two shots and saw two more.

Mr Schiller then gave evidence that heard a bang coming from inside the hotel before someone ran out and said: “it’s all kicking off.”

He then saw three men who he believed were ERU members and thought at this stage it was a garda raid.

The three were side by side in a straight line coming up the steps.

The man in the middle pointed a gun at Mr Schiller and he thought it looked like an assault rifle.

He shouted “get down, get f**king down,” Mr Schiller said.

He told Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting that the man spoke in a plain Dublin accent. A second gunman said “get the f**k out of here” in a similar accent.

He saw one of the three men open the front door of the hotel and another fired a shot before the others entered.

Mr Schiller said he heard one or two bangs that sounded like “singular pops.” Two of them ran out and he heard one shout toward the van: “He’s not f**king in there, he’s not f**king in there, I couldn’t find him.”

Other people came out saying “they weren’t guards,” he said.

Mr Schiller told Mr O’Higgins in cross-examination.

A hotel porter said the man dressed as a woman and an older man in a cap came in. The man in the cap asked directions and when the younger person said “thank you”, he realised it was not a woman.

Hotel owner James McGettigan said the weigh-in was the first boxing event held there.

When he first saw the three armed men, he formed the opinion that they were gardai, then after about 90 seconds he saw a gunman shoot a man who had come out of the Regency Suite, where the weigh in was being held.

A man in a garda uniform came into the bar and asked everybody to lie down on the floor before disappearing out of the bar, he said.

The man who was shot in the reception area fell where it happened.

“It was a very surreal, very stressful time,” Mr McGettigan told the court.

The men dressed as gardai seemed “very efficient” but were then “aggressive” and appeared quite young in age and he quickly realised that “maybe there was a robbery about to take place.”

When he saw the man being shot, he “never saw a member of the gardai behave like that before.”

Mr Gettigan “made a break for it”, to see if he could get some help and he expected to see the riot squad outside but there was “nothing there” and he had a “bad feeling.”

He told staff to call the gardai immediately.

“They said the gardai are already here and I said, ‘they are not guards’,” Mr McGettigan said.

Dublin City Council worker Paul Travers said he was in his van outside when he heard screaming and shouting. He looked in his rear view mirror and saw a similar van, and saw what looked like gardai wearing helmets and navy jackets.

He heard shots and someone saying “get in, get in.” He saw a person lying on the ground in reception and saw black or “dark coloured blood” on the floor.

Mr Travers was trying to make sure children coming out of the bar were prevented from seeing the person on the ground.

Barry Macken, a service engineer, said people were running all around and he saw two people with guns in their hands walking out. Straight away, he thought they were gardai as they were “very calm and very well-dressed.”

He heard four to five shots being fired that sounded like semi-automatic shots.

Shannon Wisely said she was there to support her partner, who was one of the boxers in attendance. She “thought it was a fight” when she heard glass breaking before there were gunshots.

She “didn’t know what was going on” and heard someone say: “Armed guards.” She did not see the men with guns do anything but she “knew someone got shot.”

Patricia Dolan, a retired teacher, told the court she was in the hotel for a book club meeting and had just had a meal and thought there was a stag party on when she saw people in black t-shirts and signs for the event’s co-promoters, MGM.

“When I heard the commotion I thought it was some sort of prank,” she said. People started shouting “get down” and she did. A man ran past her dressed as a garda with a black helmet and a black jump suit with “garda” written on the back.

He had a gun against his chest “like a soldier” and she described the way he held it as “professionally.”

This man shouted “get down, get down.”

The trial at the non-jury court continues before judges Tony Hunt, Patricia Ryan and Ann Ryan.

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