Freed Patrick Hutch believed to be staying with friend in Armagh safe house
Patrick Hutch is staying in a safe house in south Armagh after he was cleared of all charges in the Regency Hotel murder, gardaí believe.
The 26-year-old dramatically walked free from court on Wednesday and was picked up on a motorbike by his father Patsy Hutch.
It is believed Patrick Hutch fled across the Border and is staying in a house with close friend James 'Mago' Gately.
The case against Hutch collapsed after counsel for the DPP said the death of lead investigator Det Supt Colm Fox meant it was "not in a position to lead evidence on a range of evidential issues".
Gately is the same criminal Hutch was arrested with in a major undercover operation in Dublin before he was charged with the murder of Kinahan cartel figure David Byrne in the ill-fated trial.
Hutch has no previous criminal convictions and the only time he was ever arrested before the Regency Hotel arrest was for withholding information for an incident in which he was allegedly shot as part of a claimed Kinahan cartel punishment shooting in 2014. Hutch was never charged with any offence stemming from this incident.
Officers suggested to Hutch that he should consider leaving the country when they visited him in jail earlier this week to give him security advice.
The Irish Independent previously revealed that a Garda alert had been issued after his associate Gately returned to Ireland despite ongoing pressure from the Kinahan cartel.
Gately enjoyed a lengthy holiday abroad, which included trips to Singapore and China as well as stopovers in the Middle East, before returning to Dublin in mid-January.
Having spent Christmas and the New Year abroad, the Hutch associate returned to Ireland on Sunday afternoon, arriving on a flight from a Chinese city.
However, despite landing in Dublin, gardaí believe Gately returned to his safe house in Northern Ireland where he has been staying.
Such is the threat to Gately's life that a Garda bulletin was issued ahead of his return, notifying officers across the city that a "significant" target of the Kinahan cartel was due back.
Members of the Hutch gang are also being monitored by PSNI detectives on suspicion that they are continuing to run their criminal enterprise in the North.
Police officers have placed a number of high-profile Hutch gang figures under surveillance, including Gately.
PSNI officers have been liaising with gardaí and suspect the Hutch gang are involved in criminality in Northern Ireland despite being under constant threat from the Kinahan cartel.
Gately has survived two credible attempts on his life, including a foiled conspiracy in April 2017 and a shooting the following month.
In November, Estonian national Imre Arakas was jailed for six and a half years for his involvement in the plot to murder Gately.