Thursday 26 April 2018

Regency gun murder trial hears tributes to senior garda who died tragically

Tributes have been paid at the Regency gun murder trial

Det-Supt Colm Fox. Photo: Collins
Det-Supt Colm Fox. Photo: Collins

Andrew Phelan

Tributes have been paid at the Regency gun murder trial to the senior investigating garda, who died tragically last weekend.

Lawyers said Det Supt Colm Fox, who was found dead at Ballymun Garda Station on Saturday, was a “gentleman” and “consummate policeman” whose death had been an “enormous tragedy.”

Det Supt Fox was a lead investigator into the 2016 shooting at the Regency Hotel in which father-of-two David Byrne was killed.

On trial for the murder of Mr Byrne is Patrick Hutch (25).

Presiding judge Tony Hunt extended his condolences to Det Supt Fox’s family, friends and colleagues at what was a “difficult time” for them, and adjourned the trial for six days.

Mr Hutch (25) of Champions Avenue in the north inner city, is pleading not guilty to the murder of David Byrne (34) at the Regency Hotel in Dublin on February 5, 2016.

He also denies possessing three AK47 assault rifles.

The shooting happened during a boxing weigh-in, when a man dressed as a woman and another wearing a flat cap, armed with handguns, followed by a “tactical team of three men disguised as gardai with assault rifles, stormed the hotel.

It is the prosecution's case that Mr Hutch was the man dressed as a woman and that he did not shoot Mr Byrne but was part of a "shared intention" to commit the offence.

Lead prosecutor Sean Gillane SC led tributes to Det Supt Fox on behalf of his coleagues and DPP Claire Loftus.

Mr Gillane said it was with a heavy heart he brought to the court news of the “sudden and tragic passing” at the weekend of Det Supt Fox, who was the senior investigating officer.

He said he was known to him for the best part of the last 20 years and Mr Gillane had defended many cases which Det Supt Fox had prosecuted.

“No matter how hard and heavy the fight, he was never anything less than a gentleman,” Mr Gillane said.

It had been his professional privilege to work with Det Supt Fox and it was hard to believe it had been “literally only weeks” since they had worked together on the case at Ballymun Garda Station and days since they had discussed its progress outside the courtroom.

Det Supt Fox was a “fiercely intelligent man” and his intelligence was matched only by a “deep personal modesty.”

“I never heard him raise his voice,” Mr Gillane said, adding that he never had to because of the “respect he naturally commanded.”

Det Supt Fox was a “consummate policeman, the epitome of everything you would want in a member of An Garda Siochana.”

He gave himself completely to the public service and the esteem he was held in by his “brother and sister members” of the gardai was obvious.

There was never a job he was not prepared to do himself, Mr Gillane said. He spoke of the “depth of loss” that must be felt by Dept Supt Fox’s family.

Det Supt Fox had had an “essential decency” and it was with “deep sadness” that Mr Gillane said he brought the news to the court.

Defence barrister Michael O’Higgins SC said he wanted to be associated with Mr Gillane’s comments.

“Det Supt Fox was universally admired and respected by the Bar,” he said. “In addition to being admired and respected he was also regarded with enormous affection, which in an adversarial setting is no mean feat. His death is an enormous tragedy.”

Presiding judge Tony Hunt joined in the sentiments expressed and said it put “our daily disputes into context.”

He said he wished to convey the court’s condolences to Det Supt Fox’s family at a “very difficult time” for them, as well as for his colleagues, friends and the community which he served.

Mr Gillane then asked the court to consider adjourning the trial to next Monday morning. Mr O’Higgins did not oppose it.

Judge Hunt said the anxiety to “get on” with the trial after recent delays continued but this had to “play second fiddle” to developments like this.

Mr Gillane said he sincerely hoped the trial could continue on that date.

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