Lawyers for a man accused of participating in the murder of Kinahan Cartel member David Byrne at the Regency Hotel have told the Special Criminal Court it will be their case that a jeep the prosecution say was used in the attack was being driven by his father.
Under cross-examination today by John Fitzgerald SC, defending Jason Bonney, Garda Michele Purcell agreed that the builder was not identified in a BMW X5 SUV at any other point in the CCTV footage other than at his address at Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, Dublin 13.
Counsel said it was the defence case that Mr Bonney did not drive the jeep south of Newbrook Avenue [northwest of the Regency Hotel]. “Our case is that the vehicle was driven south of Newbrook Avenue by his father and was seen doing so but you can’t confirm that one way or another?” asked Mr Fitzgerald. Gda Purcell said she could not.
The trial has previously heard evidence that two detectives went to Mr Bonney’s house the day after his BMW X5 was seized but the accused declined to make a statement. In a garda memo of their conversation, Mr Bonney said he was working between an extension on his own house in Portmarnock and a home renovation at Newbrook Avenue, Donaghmede. He said he was going back and forth between the two sites and was using the BMW X5.
Addressing Mr Fitzgerald, presiding judge Ms Justice Tara Burns said the court had so far not heard evidence in relation to this and asked him if this was what Mr Bonney’s case would be in due course. Mr Fitzgerald confirmed it would be.
It is the prosecution’s case that Mr Bonney was driving a black BMW X5 on the day of the murder and had transported a man in a flat cap, who minutes earlier had raided the Regency Hotel, from St Vincent’s GAA grounds.
Gerard Hutch (59), last of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin 3, denies the murder of Mr Byrne (33) during a boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel on February 5th, 2016. Mr Hutch’s two co-accused – Paul Murphy (61), of Cherry Avenue, Swords, Co Dublin and Jason Bonney (52), of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, Dublin 13 – have pleaded not guilty to participating in or contributing to the murder of Mr Byrne by providing access to motor vehicles on February 5th, 2016.
Mr Murphy’s light coloured Toyota Avensis taxi and a BMW X5 which the prosecution say was driven by Mr Bonney on the day are alleged to have been part of a convoy that parked up at St Vincent’s GAA club grounds before the shooting and then transported the assailants from the Regency Hotel after a Ford transit van was abandoned. Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, said in his opening address that “an integral part of the operation” which led to Mr Byrne’s death was the means by which the tactical team escaped, which is central to the case of Mr Bonney and Mr Murphy.
Sarah Skedd, a senior intelligence analyst with An Garda Síochána, also gave evidence today and told prosecuting counsel Fiona Murphy SC that she was tasked on February 9th, 2016 with providing analytical assistance to the investigation, which included producing timelines, phone data and maps.
Ms Skedd began her direct evidence by providing phone location data for a journey taken by Jonathan Dowdall and his father Patrick Dowdall in a Land Cruiser jeep to Strabane in Co Tyrone on February 4th, 2016. The witness agreed the PSNI had called Buncrana Garda station in Co Donegal in the early afternoon to say that Dowdall’s jeep was seen acting suspiciously in Strabane.
The State’s case is that Gerard Hutch had asked Jonathan Dowdall to arrange a meeting with his provisional republican contacts to mediate or resolve the Hutch-Kinahan feud due to the threats against the accused’s family and friends. Ms Skedd said Patricia Dowdall, the wife of Jonathan Dowdall, made a phone call to the Regency Hotel at 3.06pm that day before ringing Patrick Dowdall at 3.11pm.
The court heard Patricia rang the Regency Hotel again at 3.14pm before ringing Patrick for a second time at 3.16pm.
Ms Skedd said Patrick Dowdall’s phone used a cell site at the US Ambassador’s Residence in the Phoenix Park at 6.15pm that evening.
Ms Skedd said Patrick Dowdall’s phone had also accessed the internet at 7.45pm on February 4th and pinged off a cell located at Richmond Builders. Ex-Sinn Fein councillor Jonathan Dowdall, a former co-accused of Mr Hutch who has turned State’s witness and who has pleaded guilty to facilitating Mr Byrne’s murder, was on the stand for eight days in December and cross-examined for seven of those by Mr Hutch’s defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC before the Christmas break.
Jonathan Dowdall agreed with Mr Grehan on the final day of cross-examination that when he received the book of evidence he had very clearly seen phone evidence indicating that he was in the area of the Regency Hotel from the evening of February 4th, 2016. When asked if he knew that his father’s phone had pinged off a mast at Richmond Builder’s, which is half way down Richmond Road, at 7.45pm that day, the witness said he didn’t look at the masts or anything like that. “It was where I was,” Dowdall said. Ms Skedd spent the afternoon outlining in detail to the non-jury court the movements of a Toyota Avensis taxi driven by Mr Murphy and a BMW X5 that the prosecution attributes to Mr Bonney alongside their call records and cell sites.
The three-judge court has previously been taken through a montage of CCTV footage showing the movements of the two cars. In her evidence, Ms Skedd said she gathered information from a variety of sources including phone data records, ANPR, internet connections, CCTV footage observations and garda interviews with the accused men before drawing up a spreadsheet displaying a timeline and maps of the movements of the men’s cars on the day.
Ms Skedd said that CCTV showed the Avensis taxi parked outside The Beachcomber pub on the Howth Road in Killester at 1.32pm on February 5th before pulling out and turning on to Collins Avenue followed by the BMW X5 at 1.41pm. She said the footage then showed six vehicles exiting Donnycarney Church, turning right on to Casino park at 2.02pm and into the vicinity of St Vincent’s GAA grounds, before the six-man hit team ran down Charlemont Lane at 2.41pm and made their escape.
She also referred to “a flat cap male” seen getting into a black BMW X5 jeep after the murder and being driven away. The prosecution case is that the late dissident republican Kevin Murray was the man seen wearing a flat cap when Mr Byrne was killed and that he co-operated with the “tactical team” that raided the Regency Hotel on February 5th.
Mr Murray died from motor neuron disease in 2017 before he could be brought to trial. Garda Michele Purcell has given evidence that a BMW X5 was parked up at St Vincent’s GAA grounds at 2.05pm on February 5th.
At 2.40pm, six people including a man in a wig and a man wearing a flat cap can be seen running down a lane. She said the man wearing the flat cap goes straight towards the BMW and puts his bag into the back passenger side of the vehicle. He then gets into the front passenger seat and “they go off”, said Garda Purcell.
At 2.42pm the light coloured Avensis exits Casino park and turns right on to the Malahide Road whilst the BMW X5 took a right on to the Malahide Road. The trial heard today that taxi receipts belonging to Mr Murphy were said to “coincide in time” with journeys on the footage.
Ms Skedd noted that the timing of a 1.3km-fare started at 1.14pm with Mr Murphy being seen arriving at the Maxol service station on Howth Road. He left and at 1.22pm, it was alleged, the taxi arrived at The Beachcomber Pub in Killester, where “no one gets in or out of the car.”
Detective Sergeant Brian Hanley previously testified that the fare receipts seized from Mr Murphy’s taxi during the search did not corroborate the account he gave of his movements.
The trial continues before Ms Justice Burns sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone, and Ms Skedd will continue giving her evidence.