Originally from the north inner city, ex-Sinn Féin member has known The Monk since he was 15
Jonathan Dowdall knew the writing was on the wall as he sat in garda custody for the murder of David Byrne and asked to speak with a member of the witness protection programme.
Originally from the north-inner city, he has known Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch since he was 15 and borrowed thousands of euro from the family for different reasons over the years.
He had once claimed on national radio that he was “proud” to know the Hutches while the Special Criminal Court heard he even accompanied a family member to Spain after a feud murder.
But in April 2021 he set the wheels in motion to become a state witness against The Monk and change his own life forever.
In the early 1990s Jonathan Dowdall grew up next door to the Hutch family where he got to know Gerry Hutch and his brother Patrick ‘Patsy’ Snr.
They were connections he would rely on the during the following decade when he set up his electrical contract company in 2007.
In the early days, the firm experienced cash-flow problems that were alleviated by his neighbours lending him sums of up to €5,000 to help pay wages. On another occasion Dowdall borrowed €20,000 from the Hutch family to help his mother with a loan. In return he would pay for holidays and make other bookings on his credit card for which he was later reimbursed.
The non-jury court yesterday heard how he became “somewhat compromised” by the Hutch gang which was described as a criminal organisation “built around strong inter-generational family bonds and trusted associates”.
Dowdall was elected to the city council as a Sinn Féin candidate in May 2014
While he wasn’t a member of the crime group and didn’t benefit from its activities, gardaí said he was in a position to do things for the organisation.
Dowdall was elected to the city council as a Sinn Féin candidate in May 2014 but quit the party and had vacated his seat by the following February. A month before his exit he had falsely imprisoned and tortured a man who he believed was trying to scam him in a motorbike deal.
When Gary Hutch was murdered on the Costa del Sol in September 2015, his father Patsy travelled to Spain with Jonathan Dowdall.
Evidence was given of how Hutch was asked to use any republican links he may have to “quell” any aspect of a feud and that Dowdall’s connections were “of benefit” for this.
Whatever attempts were made, they failed to prevent further violence, and over the following months a series of murder attempts culminated in the attack at the Regency Hotel on February 5, 2016.
Five gunmen including three dressed in garda tactical gear, one disguised as a woman and another wearing a flat cap, entered the hotel during a boxing weigh-in and shot dead Kinahan associate David Byrne (34).
Det Sgt Paul O’Toole told the court it was discovered that room 2104 had been booked for the previous night in the name of Patrick Dowdall, Jonathan’s father, using a female relative’s credit card.
Their sentencing hearing yesterday heard how the father and son travelled to Strabane on February 4 before Patrick Dowdall briefly checked into the hotel at 7.20pm.
His son later dropped the room card to a gang member and CCTV from that evening showed Kevin Murray, the gunman wearing a flat cap, enter the room.
Murray had known connections with the IRA and was “very visible” in the hotel over the course of the next day, even being captured at one point on CCTV with the handgun “held aloft”.
Under cross-examination from defence counsel Michael O’Higgins SC, Det Sgt O’Toole accepted that “one theory” was that Murray attracted attention to “misdirect” the garda inquiry to a northern paramilitary connection. He died from a terminal illness before he could be charged.
A month later Jonathan Dowdall’s Cabra home was searched which yielded video footage of the torture the previous year. A separate inquiry into that horrific attack would lead to the father and son being jailed for four years and eight years respectively.
While serving their terms in Wheatfield prison, the murder investigation continued and in April 2021, Jonathan Dowdall was arrested. He knew the game was up.
During his detention he said he wanted to speak to someone in witness protection before he was brought before the non-jury court and charged with murder.
Sources said alarm bells had already begun ringing in the Hutch camp
Last November he once again indicated his wish to speak to gardaí but that this time it was to make a statement about his knowledge of the Regency Hotel murder.
Earlier this year his prison sentence for the torture expired and in April he was released on bail on the murder charge. Sources said alarm bells had already begun ringing in the Hutch camp at this point.
Det Sgt O’Toole said he believes that Dowdall is “sincere and genuine” in what he told investigators in an interview, and last week a formal statement was taken by gardaí in Ballymun.
A nolle prosequi was entered on the murder charge with Dowdall and his father pleading guilty to facilitating the fatal shooting.
Dowdall and his extended family are now in protective custody
Mr O’Higgins said his client is now willing to testify in the Regency trial and that his statement “implicates other person or persons” and is “potentially of value to the prosecution”. He added that this cooperation comes as a cost with “very dark and grim” consequences.
Dowdall and his extended family are now in protective custody and the former politician will be assessed for the Witness Security Programme which would see him relocated abroad and given a new identity.
The father and son are also under “very severe” threat and were flanked by five armed detectives as they left the courtroom yesterday.
Three hours later Gerry Hutch was brought before the non-jury court. There was again a heavy security operation inside and outside the building as The Monk shuffled into the dock and put on headphones to help him hear the proceedings.
Charged with the murder of David Byrne, Hutch’s senior counsel Brendan Grehan said his client was “anxious” for the trial to begin.
However, he added that the disclosure of significant additional evidence last week has led them to carry out a “fundamental appraisal” of their defence strategy.
Two others, Paul Murphy (59) who previously had an address in Cherry Avenue, Swords, and Jason Bonney (50) from Drumnigh Woods, Portmarnock, are accused of facilitating the murder by providing access to vehicles to the criminal organisation who carried it out. All three deny the charges and their trial has been adjourned until at least next week.
Their one-time co-accused, Jonathan and Patrick Dowdall, will be brought back before the three judges again on October 17 to be sentenced for their role in the murder.
For Jonathan, he will have to do it all again if he takes the stand for the prosecution against The Monk.