Sunday 25 February 2018

Hotel killers: Net closes as man charged on guns

Gardai and, inset, David Byrne who was murdered in the Regency Hotel
Gardai and, inset, David Byrne who was murdered in the Regency Hotel
Gunned down: David Byrne

Paul Williams

The net is closing on the hit team who carried out the Regency Hotel attack as a man was charged with possession of three assault rifles last night.

As one of the biggest criminal investigations of the past 20 years continued to gather momentum, senior officers said they were confident that the killers of David Byrne and Eddie Hutch would be charged.

On Wednesday, gardaí made a major breakthrough when they recovered guns believed to have been used in the military-style attack.

Last night, a Donegal man was charged with possession of assault rifles and ammunition at an out-of-hours sitting of the Special Criminal Court.

Shane Rowan (39), of Forest Park, Killygordan, Co Donegal, was charged at the non-jury court with possession of three assault rifles, including a Chinese Type 56, a Romanian PM63 and a Zastava M70.

He was also charged with possessing three magazines and 75 rounds of ammunition at Tuiterath, Balrath, Slane, Co Meath, on March 9.

Additionally, Mr Rowan was charged with membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Óglaigh na hÉireann, otherwise the IRA.

Detective Sergeant Padraig Boyce, of the Special Detective Unit, told the three-judge court that he arrested Mr Rowan under section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act yesterday.

Mr Justice Paul Butler, presiding alongside Judge Martin Nolan and Judge William Hamill, remanded Mr Rowan in custody until March 16, when his case is listed for mention again.

It is understood that the man was arrested after members of the anti-terrorist Special Detective Unit had been conducting surveillance on a warehouse for several days.

The weapons, which were loaned by the IRA to the Hutch gang, were brought back to the warehouse shortly after the military-style attack on February 5.

The warehouse and a number of terrorist suspects were monitored by the Garda National Surveillance Unit (NSU) with the assistance of the Crime and Security Branch in Garda HQ.

Convinced that the coast was clear, the terrorists decided to return the guns to the North - and gardaí intercepted the transport vehicle near Slane.

Gardaí also carried out searches in the Killygordon area of Donegal and recovered a quantity of 9mm ammunition.

Ballistics tests are under way to ascertain whether the weapons were used in the Regency gun attack.

Ít is understood gardaí will use the Witness Protection Programme to accommodate associates of the Kinahan and Hutch gangs who agree to testify for the State.

Last night a senior source confirmed that the use of the programme was now "very likely" as associates of the gang involved in the Regency attack come under increasing pressure.

"People who were not involved in the murder are suddenly finding themselves in a lot of trouble because they agreed to hide or move weapons, or render other logistical assistance in the attacks," a senior source said.

"This investigation is one of the biggest since the murder of Veronica Guerin and it has factored in the likely possibility that gang members from either the Kinahan or Hutch sides decide it is in their best interests to become state witnesses.

"The investigation is gathering momentum as each hour passes and it is fair to say we are now confident that several people will ultimately be charged with serious offences," the source added.

Irish Independent

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