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Sunday 17 February 2019

'I'm lucky to be alive ... now I have to move on' - Man tortured by Jonathan Dowdall speaks out after jail term cut

Jonathan Dowdall (top) and Alex Hurley (below)
Jonathan Dowdall (top) and Alex Hurley (below)
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

A MAN who was tortured by former Sinn Féin Councillor Jonathan Dowdall has said he thought he was going to die during the terrifying attack.

Jonathan Dowdall (39) and his father Patrick Dowdall (61) both pleaded guilty to falsely imprisoning Alexander Hurley and threatening to kill him at Jonathan's family home on January 15, 2015.

Alex Hurley. Photo: Sunday World
Alex Hurley. Photo: Sunday World

Footage recorded on a mobile phone was shown to the court of Jonathan Dowdall wearing a balaclava and holding a tea-towel to the man's face before pouring water over his head, in what is commonly known as waterboarding. Patrick Dowdall was heard threatening to pull off Mr Hurley’s fingers one-by-one with a pliers.

Jonathan Dowdall was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment and Patrick Dowdall eight years imprisonment by the three-judge court on June 1 , 2017.

The father and son had their jail terms cut on Monday with the Court of Appeal re-sentencing Jonathan Dowdall to 10 years imprisonment with the final 25 months suspended and Patrick Dowdall to seven with the final three years suspended.

Victim Alex Hurley revealed today on RTÉ's Liveline that he was "surprised" and "shocked" by the appeal.

"I was a bit surprised in one sense, but in another sense I knew it could possibly happen.

"I don't agree with it [the sentence reduction]. The offence was totally unacceptable. The punishment was correct ... I didn't think it would be reduced to that extent ... I'm shocked.

"You just have to accept it and move on."

Mr Hurley said that once the trial was over, he "shifted his mindset to rebuilding his life".

"You have to try and pick yourself up ... you have to dig deep and remain positive. Physical wounds will always heal quite quickly but the psychological issue isn't easy."

He described to Joe Duffy how he was tied to a swivel chair, threatened and waterboarded.

"I was in shock and terror.

"They shaved my head with an electric razor too. It was obviously a part of their torture that they wished to inflict."

He said he thought he was going to die during the attack.

"They said 'you're not going anywhere. You're not leaving alive'."

Mr Hurley said that Dowdall did make references to Sinn Fein during the attack and said that "he was involved in the IRA".

He added that when he was let go, he was told that there were "terms and conditions attached".

"They told me to leave Dublin and never return. There were also threats against me and my family if the conditions were breached.

"A third person filmed the attack ... it was said that the video would be played on YouTube if the terms were breached too."

Mr Hurley said that after the attack, he was dumped in a remote part of Dublin and that he is still suffering mentally from the attack.

"Mentally, we all have our good days and bad days. Family and friends are the most invaluable support you can have. You become more conscious of your surroundings. You're anxious when people approach you because you don't know what they are going to say or how they are going to view you. You develop a high level of fear."

He said that it was difficult being portrayed as a "criminal" himself during the court proceedings.

"It is definitely not true. I had admitted that I had made some mistakes in the past. They were dealt with accordingly. People make mistakes and you learn from them and move on."

Mr Hurley recalled how he initially came in contact with Dowdall after the former Sinn Fein councillor advertised a €16,000 BMW motorcycle on Done Deal.

Following an initial viewing of the bike at the Dowdall house on January 12, 2015, he was given a bank account to transfer the money to. Shortly after, Mr Hurley received a phone call inviting him to dinner.

"They said they enjoyed my company when I first met them and they invited me for dinner. I said I would accept and after arriving at the house, that's when it all changed and turned into a nightmare. It was a trap."

He said that he didn't go to the gardai because of the level of threats against him and his family.

The discovery of the incident came about when gardaí were searching Dowdall's home as part of another investigation when they came across a USB flash drive containing footage of the torture.

"The gardai said they investigated the video and they contacted me. I felt a mixture of relief and doubt about whether they would be caught. I asked the gardai what risks were involved and they assured me that they would protect me at all times."

He said that he didn't tell his family about the attack until after gardai approached him a year later.

"I realised I was lucky to be alive. I had many sleepless nights over it but you find inner strength that you don't know that you have. You realise that you are one of the lucky ones that you survived the ordeal. There was fear of course, but I kept in the mindset that if I uphold the terms, they would have no reason to come near me."

Mr Hurley said that he would like a written apology from Jonathan Dowdall.

"I would like an acknowledgement of the inhumane treatment. It won't solve it, but it would show that there is a sign of genuine remorse there."

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