Patrick Hutch trial: Witness recalls ‘bedlam’ of Regency Hotel shooting
Dubliner (34) on trial accused of the murder of David Byrne on February 5th, 2016
Witness Paul Spencer pictured leaving the Special Criminal Court after giving evidence in the trial of Patrick Hutch. Photograph: Collins Courts.
Mel Christle, former president of the Boxing Union of Ireland, pictured leaving the Special Criminal Court after giving evidence in the trial of Patrick Hutch. Photograph: Collins Courts.
A man who attended a boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel in Dublin thought gardaí had arrived following a shooting incident there but one of these men then produced a gun and shot someone, the Special Criminal Court has heard.
The evidence was heard on Friday during the second day of the trial of Patrick Hutch (25), of Champions Avenue, Dublin 1, who has pleaded not guilty to the murder of David Byrne (34) at the hotel on February 5th, 2016.
It is the prosecution’s case that Mr Hutch shared an intention with five other men to commit the offence. He also denies possessing three AK47 assault rifles in connection with the fatal shooting.
Paul Spencer told the court that he went to the Regency on February 5th, 2016 to support some boxers from his gym who were taking part in an event at the National Boxing Stadium the next day.
The room was “fairly packed” and there was a “good atmosphere in the place”, the court heard.
Mr Spencer said that he saw people from his own gym as well as others associated with the MGM gym, including Daniel Kinahan.
He said he noticed a man and a woman coming in but that they “seemed out of place”. The court heard the woman had a blonde wig and was linking arms with the other man, who was wearing a cap.
The woman was “bockety on her legs and unsteady on her feet”, the court heard. Mr Spencer said he realised as they passed that the person in the wig was a man dressed as a woman.
The pair unlinked and were looking into the crowd and Mr Spencer recalled then hearing a shout from the other side of the room of “Gun! Gun!”
He said the pair pointed handguns over the crowd and he heard three or four gunshots. Mr Spencer said he was “terrified” and sought cover.
The court heard that the men started walking toward the crowd while everybody was running and that he then saw the man dressed as a woman running out an emergency door.
Mr Spencer said that a man walked in and said: “It’s okay, the ERU (emergency response unit) are here” and that he was “relieved” as it seemed gardaí had arrived.
Two men wearing dark helmets, blue police jackets and with scarves over their noses were carrying “huge guns” when they walked into the room, he said.
The court heard that the “two fellas walked calmly into the centre of the room” and people started walking toward them before one of them opened fire.
Mr Spencer said he saw one of them “aim the gun and shoot a person” and that people dropped to the ground again and somebody was shouting: “Help me, help me”.
Mr Spencer said his “ears were ringing” and “it was bedlam” and that he then saw the man dressed as a woman and the man in the cap running back in the door with their “guns held high”. The man dressed as a woman was shouting, in a Dublin accent: “I can’t see him, I can’t see him, he’s not f**king here”.
Mr Spencer said he went to the reception area and looked down and saw a body.
Under cross-examination, Mr Spencer told Justin McQuaid BL that he had given a description to gardaí of the man dressed as a woman but was not asked to attend an identification parade.
Mel Christie, former president of the Boxing Union of Ireland, told Seán Gillane SC, prosecuting, that he went with boxing commentator Rinze Van Der Meer to the hotel for the weigh-in.
Gary Sweeney, a boxer from Mayo, was the last fighter to be weighed and had just stepped down from the scales when Mr Christie heard a “cracking noise”.
“It was a commotion,” Mr Christie said. “Suddenly you were aware people were tumbling over chairs and seeking cover...I was aware the cracking noise were gunshots.”
He said 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,” he said.
Mr Christie said the man dressed as a woman was holding the pistol close to his stomach and running. “He was doing his best to stay calm and was running calmly and the stocky gentleman was keeping up with him,” he said.
Mr Christie said the commotion got worse because it was clear that two people had been shot and there then came at least eight “far louder gunshots”, with the noise coming from the reception area.
Mr Christie said he went outside with Mr Van Der Meer, who was “quite shocked”, and that they stayed in a small yard until the gunfire ceased.
“Outside, there were huddles of people in a highly frenzied mood,” he said, adding that, “A number of these people, you could see they were looking for vengeance.”
During cross-examination, a photo of a man wearing a wig was shown to Mr Christie.
Michael O’Higgins SC, for Mr Hutch, said: “Looking at that, it’s not obviously a man.”
Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, said: “The hands don’t look very feminine, Mr O’Higgins.”
Mr Christie agreed with Mr O’Higgins that he was in a position to give a “good verbal description” of the person. He also said that he had not been asked by gardaí to attend an identification parade.
Margaret Christie told the court that in February 2016 she was working in the Regency Hotel’s accounts department and that while on her way outside for a cigarette, she saw a man who was shaking and seemed “petrified”.
She said that man was between 60 and 70-years-old and wearing a flat cap. he was “linking arms” with a younger person wearing a dirty blonde wig.
Ms Christie said the younger person’s foot twisted and he went down on his ankle and she saw he had “jet black hair”, was clean-shaven, wearing a gold-grey dress and horn-rimmed glasses.
Ms Christie said she shouted: “That’s a man dressed up as a woman”.
She said that she walked behind them into the Regency Suite, and that the man dressed as a woman stopped and was looking around. She formed the view he was “expecting somebody to be there”.
The trial continues.