Paul Williams: 'Patrick Hutch is a dead man walking with a hefty bounty on his head'
The collapse of the prosecution case against Patrick Hutch for the alleged murder of drug dealer David Byrne undoubtedly represents a major setback for the gardai who have been battling valiantly to end the gangland feud between the Kinahan and Hutch crime families.
The decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions to enter a nolle prosequi – the decision not to pursue the case any further – was the denouement of one particular chapter in this story of gangland betrayal, hatred and murder which has so far claimed up to 18 lives.
Theoretically a nolle prosequi suggests that the State may, at some stage in the future, resurrect the case for a second hearing. But this rarely happens and considering the circumstances of this particular case, Patrick Hutch can be confident that he will not face another trial for the murder of David Byrne.
This means that Patrick Hutch is a wholly innocent citizen in the eyes of the law – but not, unfortunately, in the eyes of the Kinahan cartel.
And the cold brutal truth is that while Patrick Hutch is legally innocent of the murder of David Byrne, he left the Special Criminal Court with a suspected life sentence of a different kind, imposed under the primeval laws of the gangland jungle.
Or to use the underworld vernacular, Hutch is a dead man walking with a hefty bounty suspected to be on his head, who will be forced to spend every hour of his life looking over his shoulder for as long as this unprecedented gang war rages on.
In reality he has been under sentence of death, just like the rest of his family, since the day three years ago that a five-man hit team stormed the Regency Hotel – including three who were wearing garda combat fatigues and armed with AK47s - and David Byrne was gunned down.
It was the murder of his brother Gary in Spain in September 2015 by former associates in the Kinahan cartel that kicked off this completely disproportionate blood fest, which has claimed a total of 18 lives including two completely innocent men.
Amongst the dead were two cousins, and an uncle of Patrick Hutch.
And despite what he may have been in life, David Byrne was still a human being and no human being deserves to be gunned down without mercy.
The anger and grief expressed by the victim’s family, which compelled them to protest outside the gates of the Dail bearing placards demanding justice for his murder, is totally understandable in the circumstances.
But while members of the family placed their hopes of getting justice in the legitimate courts, the same cannot be said for Byrne’s former friends and associates, the psychopathic thugs who have been responsible for 16 of those 18 murders.
The Kinahans can no longer try to claim that they are merely seeking an eye for an eye – they have been engaged in what amounts to a deliberate attempt to wipe out an entire family.
The DPPs decision to abandon the case against Patrick Hutch was the result of the tragic death on February 10 last year of Detective Superintendent Colm Fox, the lead investigation officer in the Regency Hotel attack.
Colm Fox had a long and distinguished service behind him when, for reasons no one will ever really understand, he tragically took his own life.
It is understood that Colm Fox left correspondence behind including one in which he admitted being responsible for a “grave error of judgement”.
This resulted in an immediate adjournment of the Hutch trial while a major investigation took place to establish what those words meant.
My sources tell me that nothing was found that was capable of confirming any serious error of judgement but it did create a doubt: and in the criminal law someone can only be convicted of a crime if the jurors are convinced of guilt “beyond all reasonable doubt”.
So, in such circumstances the DPP was left with no choice but discontinue the trial.
While we must acknowledge the pain and suffering of the family of David Byrne, it is equally important that we remember a brave and dedicated garda and the heartbroken family he left behind.
They are victims of the collateral damage wrought when two murderous, lawless tribes go to war.
Colm Fox is one of the people on the very thin blue line who stood in the gap, honouring his oath to protect and serve the people of Ireland.
This unconscionable tragedy should serve as a reminder to everyone, especially the highest ranks of An Garda Siochana and their Government masters, of the sometimes overwhelming pressure placed on the shoulders of the few on that front line.
The only explanation for this tragedy lies in what is called cognitive disturbance; an exaggerated, irrational thought that things are much worse than they actually are, causing the victim to catastrophise.
The release of Patrick Hutch has meanwhile upped the ante in this ongoing blood feud: he and his father, Patsy and Uncle Gerry, the Monk, are still the prime targets of the murderous Kinahan machine.
This feud will only end when all the principles on each side are either dead or serving life sentences behind bars.
In the meantime we should remember that if it wasn’t for the likes of Colm Fox whose investigations have prevented at least 50 more planned revenge hits, the body count in this gang war would be much higher.