Patrick Hutch trial: How boxing event became bloodbath
Trial at Special Criminal court began in January 2018 and collapsed over a year later
It was the State’s case that six people including Patrick Hutch were involved in a “resourced, carefully planned, targeted, murderous attack”.
Opening the prosecution case in January 2018, Seán Gillane SC said the Regency hotel was hosting a weigh-in for a boxing event scheduled for the following day, billed as the ‘Clash of the Clans’.
The event, on February 5th, 2016 was widely publicized on social media, and was a co-promotion between Queensberry Promotions, run by boxing promoter Frank Warren, and MGM, a Marbella-based firm which runs a boxing management company and a boxing gym, the barrister said.
He added that the event was to include boxers associated with the MGM gym, which “enjoyed the patronage of a number of people”, and that the prosecution case is that “a number of these people’s presence might have been anticipated at the event”.
Mr Gillane said the court would hear evidence that as the weigh-in commenced, at 2:20pm, a silver van parked up outside the hotel and some seven minutes or so later, a man wearing a flat cap and a man wearing a wig got out of the van and walked toward the hotel, their progress captured on CCTV.
Mel Christie, former president of the Boxing Union of Ireland, gave evidence of hearing gunshots just after Gary Sweeney, a boxer from Mayo, completed his weigh-in.
Mr Christie said he had just confirmed Mr Sweeney’s weight, and the boxer had stepped down from the scales, when there was a “cracking noise”, which he knew to be gunshots.
“It was a commotion,” Mr Christie said. “Suddenly you were aware people were tumbling over chairs and seeking cover.”
He added that he then became aware of two people running to his left.
“Essentially one was a stocky middle-aged man with a cap and he was trying to keep up, slightly behind a younger person, who was obviously male but dressed as a female,” the witness said.
Both men were carrying pistols, the court heard.
During cross-examination, a photo of the man wearing the wig was shown to Mr Christie, before defence counsel, Michael O’Higgins SC suggested, “Looking at that, it’s not obviously a man.”
“The hands don’t look very feminine, Mr O’Higgins,” Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, commented.
Mr Gillane said the man with the wig and the man with the flat cap were observed carrying handguns, running down the corridor following or chasing people toward a larger function room, where there were emergency exits.
He said the court would hear evidence that at 2:29pm the same silver van proceeded through the security gate and pulled up in front of the hotel before three individuals dressed as gardaí, in armed tactical style uniforms, got out of the van and went to the hotel’s entrance, carrying assault rifles.
He said the court would hear that a number of shots were immediately discharged from the weapons, which caused “all-round panic with people running in opposite directions”, and that the manner in which the three people were dressed caused further confusion, with some believing they were in fact gardaí, arriving to deal with the incident.
Witness Paul Spencer told the court that he went to the Regency that afternoon to support some boxers from his gym.
He said he saw guys from his gym and other boxers, as well as guys associated with the MGM gym, including Daniel Kinahan.
He said he noticed two people coming in, a man and a blonde woman, but quickly realised that the blonde was a man wearing a wig.
He said he heard a shout from the other side of the room of “Gun! Gun!” and that the men pointed handguns, higher than head-height, over the crowd, and he heard three or four gunshots.
He was “terrified”, he said, and pushed himself to a pillar for cover.
He said he heard the man dressed as a woman shouting, in a Dublin accent, “I can’t see him, I can’t see him, he’s not fucking here”.
Robin Schiller, an Evening Herald journalist, gave evidence that a garda pointed an assault rifle at him and told him to “get f**king down” at the steps of the Regency Hotel. Mr Schiller said he saw three men whom he believed to be Emergency Response Unit (ERU) members come towards him and the person in the middle pointed a gun at him. The man shouted “get down, get fucking down” in a Dublin accent, he indicated.
Mr Schiller said that three people went into the hotel and one of them fired a shot. He heard one or two loud bangs and the three people dressed as ERU members later left the hotel and ran towards a van, he said. One of the men shouted: “He’s not in there, he’s not fucking in there, I can’t find him.”
Mr Gillane said the court would hear that the deceased, Mr Byrne, was in a group running toward the main reception when he was shot by one of the men in garda uniform, with an assault rifle, and shot again by another of the men dressed as a guard.
‘Calm and cold’
Mr Byrne was injured and made his way to the reception desk, the barrister said.
Mr Gillane said the court would also see footage of a BBC reporter jumping over the reception desk, lying on the ground and taking cover, when one of the men in garda uniform jumped onto the reception desk, pointed the weapon at the reporter, engaged with him for a number of seconds, but did not discharge.
He said the gunman then jumped back over the counter, to where Mr Byrne was lying on the ground, and “calmly and coldly” discharged rounds into the victim.
Joe Brady, a paramedic, told the court that he arrived on the scene and pronounced Mr Byrne dead.
There were bullet shell casings around the deceased man and the smell in the reception was “exactly like a firing-range”, the paramedic said.
The evidence of then Assistant State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis was read into court. He concluded that Mr Byrne had died as a result of six gunshots, fired from a high-velocity weapon, to the face, stomach, hand and legs.
The wounds were “rapidly if not instantaneously fatal”, Dr Curtis concluded.
Before the court viewed the CCTV on day three of the trial, presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt excluded members of the public under the age of eighteen. Prosecuting counsel Sean Gillane SC had warned that certain portions were not easy to watch.
Cameras both outside and inside the hotel recorded a man in flat cap and a man in a wig getting out of a silver van at 2:28pm, entering the hotel via the laundry room door and walking along a corridor toward the Regency Suite, a function room where the weigh-in was taking place.
At 2:32pm, the court saw, people were running away from the Regency Suite.
Among those fleeing the hotel was Mr Byrne, the court heard. He was seen running along a corridor outside the lifts, then turning back, before running again toward the reception area.
The court saw the man in the flat cap and man in the wig then run back to the laundry room, before entering the hotel again and looking around.
Footage was also shown to the court of three people dressed in tactical-style garda uniforms and helmets, referred to as “Tacs 1, 2 and 3”, getting out the silver van, carrying assault rifles, and running up the steps of the hotel while people were running out.
The court heard that “Tac 1” entered the lobby, spotted Mr Byrne, turned and shot him, and that the victim “crawled” toward the reception before “Tacs 2 and 3” entered the lobby and “Tac 2” turned and shot Mr Byrne while “Tac 3” ran toward the bar.
“Tac 1” looked around the bar and checked the second entrance to the hotel, the court was told.
The court then saw “Tac 2” jumping up on the reception desk and pointing his rifle at a BBC journalist, who had been hiding behind the desk.
“Tac 2” then turned and shot Mr Byrne again, the court saw, before walking down the corridor toward the laundry-room door.
Footage from 2:34pm was also shown of “Tacs 1, 2 and 3”, and the man in the flat cap and the man in the wig, getting into the van before it pulled off.