Sunday 18 November 2018

Shout of 'ERU here' before raider in Garda outfit shot victim, trial is told

Patrick Hutch
Patrick Hutch

Andrew Phelan

An eyewitness at the scene of the Regency Hotel gangland attack said a man shouted "It's OK, it's OK, the ERU is here" before an armed raider dressed as a garda took aim and shot someone in the crowd.

The Special Criminal Court also heard that before the helmeted gunmen arrived, 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".

Victim David Byrne
Victim David Byrne

Afterwards, a boxing official said groups of people were in a frenzied mood and a number of them appeared to be "looking for vengeance".

Evidence was being heard in 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 Hutch, from Champion's Avenue in north inner city Dublin, has also pleaded not guilty to possession of three assault rifles at the Regency Hotel, Whitehall, on February 5, 2016.

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. Prosecutors claim Mr Hutch was identified as the man dressed as a woman.

They do not allege he shot Byrne, from Crumlin, but that he participated in the raid and shared intent to commit the crimes.

Witness Paul Spencer told the court he saw Daniel Kinahan at the hotel, among people associated with MGM, the boxing event's co-promoters.

Mr Spencer said he noticed two people come in, with linked arms - a man with a cap and what he thought was a blonde woman but she was "a bit bockety on her legs and unsteady on her feet". 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. After this, a "fella" walked in and said: "It's OK, it's OK, the ERU is here."

Mr Spencer agreed with prosecutor Sean Gillane SC that this made him feel "a bit more at ease because he thought police had arrived".

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

Two men in helmets with scarves up to their noses and "police gear", carrying guns, walked calmly into the centre of the room. People started to walk towards them.

Mr Spencer heard three to four more gunshots and saw they came from one of the men dressed as gardaí. He saw one aim his gun at somebody and heard someone screaming, "Help me, help me."

Mr Spencer saw the two men "tilting their heads," 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 the 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***ing here", and he saw the two of them looking around the room.

Mel Christle, the then-president of the Boxing Union of Ireland, said the man dressed as a woman "looked unusual".

"He was holding a pistol close to his stomach and running, not very fast. He was doing his best to stay calm and was running calmly."

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.

As he left, 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. A number of these people you could see were looking for vengeance."

A hotel accountant, Margaret Christie, said she saw the man dressed as a woman had trouble walking and "went over on his ankle".

She thought he was going to "do something funny," some sort of "prank".

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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