Sunday 23 September 2018

Man shouted 'it's okay, the ERU are here', before raiders dressed as gardai shot person - Regency murder trial hears

The aftermath of the Regency Hotel attack, inset David Byrne
The aftermath of the Regency Hotel attack, inset David Byrne

Andrew Phelan

AN EYEWITNESS at the scene of the Regency Hotel gangland shooting said a man shouted “It’s OK, it’s OK, the ERU are here” before one of two armed raiders dressed as gardai took aim and shot someone in the crowd.

The Special Criminal Court also heard that before the helmeted attackers arrived and opened fire, a man dressed as a woman was seen running through the hotel with a pistol held close to his stomach, “doing his best to stay calm.”

Afterwards, a boxing official said, huddles of people were in a highly frenzied mood and a number of them "you could see were looking for vengeance.”

Evidence was being heard at the Special Criminal Court on the second day of the trial of Patrick Hutch (25), who denies murdering father of-two David Byrne (34) in a “carefully-planned, targeted” attack during a weigh-in for a boxing event.

Mr Byrne 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.

Mr Hutch was allegedly identified as the man in the wig, who was seen carrying what appeared to be a handgun and shouting “he’s not f**king here.”

Prosecutors do not allege Mr Hutch, from Champion's Avenue in the north inner city shot Mr Byrne, from Crumlin, but that he participated in the raid and shared intent to commit the crimes.

Mr Hutch has pleaded not guilty to murder and possession of three assault rifles and magazines at the Regency Hotel, Whitehall on February 5, 2016.

Today, a witness Paul Spencer said the hotel was packed and there was a good atmosphere when he arrived.

Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting asked if he saw anyone associated with the MGM gym, co-promoters of the event.

"Daniel Kinahan," Mr Spencer said.

Mr Spencer said he was chatting when he noticed two people come in, with linked arms - a man with a cap and and a man dressed as a woman in a blonde wig and black jacket.

They were looking into the crowd and stood out a little bit, he said.

He then heard a shout from the other side of the room: “gun, gun.”

He saw the two pulling two handguns out of their jackets, pointing them over the crowd. He heard three to four gunshots before he dropped to the ground and pulled himself toward a pillar for cover.

People were running and tables were knocked over. He said he got to his feet and heard three gunshots coming from outside. A man then walked in and said: “It’s OK, it’s OK, the ERU are here.”

Mr Spencer agreed with Mr Gillane that this made him feel “a bit more at ease because he thought police had arrived.”

Two men in helmets and “police gear”, carrying guns walked calmly into the centre of the room, the first turned and people started to walk towards them.

They both had their backs to Mr Spencer and he heard three to four more gunshots and gun see that the shots came from one of the men dressed as police.

He saw one aim his gun at somebody and heard someone screaming “help me, help me.”

Mr Spencer saw the two men looking at people on the ground and felt they were looking for someone.

After he thought everything had finished, people “went berserk” again and he dropped to the floor.

The man with a cap and the man dressed as a woman then ran back in with handguns held high, he said. The man dressed as a woman said “I can’t see him, he’s not f**king here” and he saw the two of them looking around the room.

Read More: Regency Hotel shooting was 'resourced, carefully planned, targeted', court hears

Mel Christle, the then president of the Boxing Union of Ireland said he was at the weigh in when he heard a cracking noise, followed by a commotion.

“You were aware that people were tumbling over chairs and seeking cover,” he said.

The cracking noise was gunshots, he said, and there were “raised voices and you could hear children being quite upset.”

“I then became aware of two people running to my left. One was a stocky middle aged man with a cap, he was trying to keep up, slightly behind the younger person who was obviously a male but dressed as a female. Both of them had guns, hand pistols.”

He said the man dressed as a woman “looked unusual.”

“He was holding a pistol close to his stomach and running, not very fast. It may have been fast for him. He was doing his best to stay calm and was running calmly. The stockier gentleman was keeping up with him.”

There were at least eight more, louder shots.

After the shooting he heard “groans and tearful utterances.” A boxing “cuts man” was tending to two injured men, staunching wounds. Mr Christle told the commentator: “no boxing tonightor tomorrow night.”

As he left, he said, he saw the body of a man slumped with his head resting against the reception desk.

“There were huddles of people in a highly frenzied mood as if something horrific had happened,” he said. “A number of these people you could see were looking for vengeance.” Earlier a detective garda gave evidence of photographing the scene over the course of three days. Books presented in evidence included photographs of ammunition on the ground at the reception desk, the weigh-in room and the hotel’s front entrance. There was also a photograph of firearm marks on the base of the reception desk.

Mr Hutch, wearing a light grey suit with a white open-necked shirt sat in the dock, watching proceedings and occasionally sipping from a bottle of water.

Mr Byrne’s parents, James and Sadie, sat in the public gallery of the Special Criminal Court during the proceedings.

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

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