Thursday 20 September 2018

Key witness in Hutch murder trial did not grasp 'seriousness' of her situation when she made garda statement, court hears

Gareth Hutch
Gareth Hutch

Alison O'Riordan

A key witness did not grasp the “seriousness” of her situation when she made a statement to gardaí concerning the fatal shooting of Gareth Hutch, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

Detective Garda Kevin Keys said Mary McDonnell’s life changed on the day she made this statement and it provided “very fruitful” information to substantially move on their investigation.

Mrs McDonnell was originally charged with withholding information but that charge was dropped, and she has been given immunity from prosecution.

Mr Hutch (36), nephew of Gerry “The Monk” Hutch was shot dead as he was getting into his car outside Avondale House flats on North Cumberland Street in Dublin on the morning of May 24, 2016. He died as a result of four gunshot injuries.

Thomas Fox (31) with an address at Rutland Court, Dublin 1, Regina Keogh (41) from Avondale House, Cumberland Street North, Dublin 1 and Mr Keogh (32) of Gloucester Place, Dublin 1, have pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Hutch.

Mr Fox has also denied unlawfully possessing a Makarov 9 mm handgun on May 23, 2016 at the same place.

The court heard previously that Mrs McDonnell made a voluntary statement to gardaí in her flat at Avondale House on May 25, in which she implicated the three accused in Mr Hutch’s murder. Gardaí had concerns for her safety as a result of this statement and she and her daughters were taken to Mountjoy Garda Station. Mrs McDonnell was then arrested and questioned by officers. She exercised her right to silence for three days.

Under cross-examination today by Sean Guerin SC, defending Mr Keogh, Det Gda Keys agreed Mrs McDonnell told him in her statement on May 25 that she sat in a particular chair in her flat and only left her home once a week to go to the shop or doctor.

The witness agreed that none of the interviews conducted with Mrs McDonnell from May 25 until May 28 in the Bridewell Garda Station reflected any “real progression” in the investigation.

“Interviews are there to get an account from somebody as to what happened. All I was interested in was the truth and until someone engages with you, it is hard to get to the truth,” he said.

He said Mrs McDonnell was repeatedly advised by gardaí not to return home to Avondale House as she would be in grave danger, adding that he still believes it is in her best interest not to return to the north inner city.

Arrangements were made for her protection and these were done independently of the garda investigating team, the court heard.

Mr Guerin put it to Det Gda Keys that interviews which took place with Mrs McDonnell on May 26 were a deliberate effort to frighten her into thinking she could never go home and Mr Keogh would kill her if she did. Det Gda Keys disagreed and said Mrs McDonnell did not realise or accept her life had changed when she made her statement in her flat on the day after the fatal shooting.

“She had made a statement detailing to us what had happened on the day, she had told us things we didn’t know about and she believed she was in a position to go back to Avondale House as if nothing had ever happened,” he said.

Det Gda Keys denied that he suggested to Mrs McDonnell that gardaí could not help her unless she gave them what they wanted. The witness was told we had a duty to protect her as a result of her statement, but it was certainly not dependent on her cooperating with us, he said. 

Det Gda Keys told Mr Guerin that life changed for Mrs McDonnell on the day she made her statement and provided "very fruitful information" to substantially move on their investigation. 

He said it was clear that no threats or promises were made to Mrs McDonnell and he did not think she grasped “the seriousness” of the situation she was in when she made this statement.

At the opening of the trial, the prosecution told the court that the killing of Mr Hutch was not a spontaneous or spur of the moment act but a “brutal and callous murder”. “It was premeditated, and a significant amount of planning had gone into it,” counsel said.

The prosecution says the three co-accused each had their own part to play in bringing about the death of Mr Hutch.

The prosecution contend that Mr Keogh threatened to kill Mr Hutch the evening before the shooting, that Mr Fox and Ms Keogh were instrumental in planning the murder, and Mr Keogh and another man, Mr AB, were the shooters.

The trial continues tomorrow before Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, sitting with Judge Patricia Ryan and Judge Michael Walsh.

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