Thursday 19 April 2018

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

Murder accused Patrick Hutch wore a blonde wig during the alleged attack and was heard shouting 'I can't f*cking find him'

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

Andrew Phelan

A FATHER-of-two was shot six times by a “tactical team” of armed raiders dressed as gardai in a “carefully-planned, targeted, murderous attack” at Dublin’s Regency hotel, a court has heard.

Two of the raiders shot David Byrne (34) as he tried to escape amid scenes of panic at a boxing weigh-in event attended by families with children.

As Mr Byrne lay injured, one of the gunmen jumped the reception desk and “calmly and coldly” shot him again. Another man allegedly dressed as a woman, who also took part in the raid was seen by witnesses carrying what appeared to be a handgun and shouting “he’s not f**king here.”

A lawyer for the prosecution was delivering his opening speech at the Special Criminal Court in the trial of Patrick Hutch (25).

Mr Hutch is accused of murdering Mr Byrne, from Crumlin in a gangland shooting at the hotel on February 5, 2016.

Prosecutors allege Mr Hutch was identified as being the man dressed as a woman and that he participated in and shared intent to commit the crime.

Murder accused Patrick Hutch
Murder accused Patrick Hutch

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

This afternoon, Mr Hutch, wearing a grey suit and open-necked white shirt stood and replied: “not guilty, your honour” when the charges were read out to him by the court registrar.

Prosecutor Sean Gillane then set out the State’s case. He said a weigh-in was taking place that afternoon in advance of a boxing event billed as the “clash of the clans.”

The event coincided with the Ireland V Wales Six Nations rugby match and this informed the venue of the event, as there were accommodation pressures in the city centre.

The event at the Regency in Whitehall was widely publicised on social media and was promoted by Queensbury Promotions, associated with boxing promoter Frank Warren, and MGM, which runs a gym in Marbella. The presence of a number of people associated with the gym “may well have been anticipated,” Mr Gillane said.

The Boxing Union of Ireland was only involved in issues such as safety compliance and had no role in organising or promoting the event.

James and Sadie Byrne parents of David Byrne arrive for the trial of Patrick Hutch junior at the special criminal court at the CCJ in Dublin. Picture credit: INM
James and Sadie Byrne parents of David Byrne arrive for the trial of Patrick Hutch junior at the special criminal court at the CCJ in Dublin. Picture credit: INM

The weigh-in was taking place at around 2pm in the hotel’s Regency Suite, which had a raised stage. A large group of people including boxers, trainers, managers, members of the public and families with children were present, Mr Gillane continued.

Separately, a number of vehicles were captured on CCTV driving towards nearby St Vincent’s GAA club and parking there as the weigh in got underway.

At around 2.20pm a silver van parked up at the gate to Gracepark Manor housing estate. A man wearing a flat cap and a man who the prosecution said wore a wig emerged from that van and walked toward the hotel through the gate, Mr Gillane said.

Their progress was captured on external CCTV from the hotel. The two approached the hotel through the unguarded and unlocked laundry entrance.

Staff members would give evidence the two individuals asked them for directions to the MGM meeting. One was described as appearing to have long blonde hair and wearing heels and a long black coat.

The staff member showed them the direction and realised that the person with the blonde hair was “in fact a man, with a Dublin accent.”

There would be evidence of the two moving through the hotel, “arm in arm at times,” Mr Gillane continued.

At the suite, boxer Gary Sweeney was in the process of having his weigh-in completed on the main stage.

As this was happening, a number of eye-witnesses described “gunfire, gunshots and cracking sounds”.

“People were unsure from where the sounds were emanating but it was clear that an immediate panic ensued,” Mr Gillane said.

The man in the wig and the man in the flat cap were observed in the Regency Suite carrying what appeared to be handguns, chasing people who were moving in the direction of the emergency exit.

According to the prosecution, the pair re-emerged at the front of the hotel, from the place they had entered, forming “a loop.”

Moving back in time, Mr Gillane said moments after the two men entered the hotel, at around 2.29pm the silver Ford Transit van proceeded through the security gate separating the hotel from the housing estate and pulled up in front of the hotel.

Three armed individuals dressed in “tactical-style clothing” emerged from the van and went in the front entrance. It would be clear from footage that the three were armed with what appeared to be assault rifles.

The van “did a u-turn” and waited outside the main entrance with its side door open. The court would be invited to infer there were six people in the van - the man in the flat cap, the man dressed as a woman, three dressed as gardai and a driver.

After the three people emerged, a number of shots were immediately discharged from these weapons, which caused a panic.

This resulted in people running in the opposite direction.

“The court will hear the manner in which the people were dressed caused further confusion and many believed they were in fact gardai arriving to deal with what was developing in the Regency Suite,” Mr Gillane said.

During the trial, the three would be referred to as Tac 1, Tac 2 and Tac 3, he continued.

It would be alleged Tac 1 entered the reception area and dropped a handgun that was picked up by Tac 2. Tac 2 and 3 discharged their weapons and in the course of this two men were shot, receiving non-fatal injuries. They were treated at the scene.

The deceased, David Byrne, was in a group of people running toward the main reception from the suite and upon his emergence into the reception area, he was shot by a person identified as Tac 1, with his assault rifle and was “shot again immediately thereafter by Tac 2.”

Mr Byrne fell “clearly injured” to the ground and made his way to the reception desk.

While that was happening, the court would see that a BBC reporter jumped over the reception desk and took cover on the ground.

Tac 2, having observed Mr Byrne on the ground, pointed his weapon at the reporter, engaged with him but did not discharge the weapon.

He then jumped the reception counter to where Mr Byrne was lying.

“He calmly and coldly discharged the weapon again, discharging further rounds into the head and body of Mr Byrne,” Mr Gillane said.

It seemed clear from eyewitnesses that the raiders were looking for a specific person, and the man wearing the wig was heard shouting: “He’s not f**king here” and words to the effect of “I couldn’t f**king find him.”

The men in the cap and wig ran towards the tactical team and all of them jumped into the van, which drove away in the direction of Gracepark Manor, the prosecution would say.

It was burned out in the Charlemont estate and cooled off rounds of ammunition were recovered in and around it.

It was alleged the raiders made good their escape in a number of vehicles parked up in the GAA club.

The men in the wig and cap were seen pulling bags and the court would be satisfied that the tactical team members changed their clothes.

Much of the events was captured on CCTV and there was also footage taken by an eyewitness connected with Independent Newspapers and still images captured by a photographer connected with the Sunday World, Mr Gillane said.

These stills showed the men in the cap and wig running from the hotel. Two detectives would say they “immediately recognised” the man in the wig as Patrick Hutch and the man in the flat cap as Kevin Murray, who was now deceased.

Three assault rifles from China, Romania and Yugoslavia were recovered in Co Meath on March 9, 2016 in the course of another investigation and cartridges found at the Regency matched these weapons, the court heard.

Mr Byrne’s cause of death was from six gunshot wounds from high-velocity weapons. The injuries were to his head, face, abdomen, hands, and thighs.

“All six individuals acting together took part in a resourced, carefully-planned, targeted, murderous attack,” Mr Gillane said.

“It displayed perfected callousness involving the discharge of a firearm at a prone man, already shot.”

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

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