Witness in Hutch murder trial was ‘willing participant,’ court hears

Gareth Hutch, nephew of ‘the monk’, was shot dead getting into his car in Dublin in 2016

Gardaí outside Avondale House flats on North Cumberland Street in Dublin after Gareth Hutch was shot dead on May 24th, 2016. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Gardaí outside Avondale House flats on North Cumberland Street in Dublin after Gareth Hutch was shot dead on May 24th, 2016. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

A key prosecution witness in the trial of three Dubliners charged with murdering Gareth Hutch was a “complicit and willing participant” and downplayed her role in order to get a “great bargain”, a defence barrister has told the Special Criminal Court.

Patrick Gageby SC, for Regina Keogh (41), said on Friday in his closing speech that Mary McDonnell (45) told untruths to gardaí and had attempted to “pull the wool over the eyes” of the non-jury court in aspects of her evidence.

The State witness had pointed her finger at Ms Keogh who had been a “stalwart” friend to her, Mr Gageby submitted.

The mother of five’s case resided “entirely” in Mrs McDonnell’s evidence, the barrister said, and it would be very dangerous to convict his client on her account.

Mrs McDonnell was initially arrested on suspicion of murdering Mr Hutch and later charged with withholding information. However, that charge was subsequently withdrawn and she has been given immunity from prosecution.

The prosecution contend that Mrs McDonnell was encouraged by her “best friend” and neighbour Regina Keogh to allow Jonathan Keogh use her flat “as a base” to wait for Mr Hutch prior to the attack. Her kitchen window had a view into Mr Hutch’s flat.

Mr Hutch (36), nephew of Gerry “the monk” Hutch was shot dead as he was getting into his car outside Avondale House flats on North Cumberland Street in Dublin on the morning of May 24th, 2016. He died as a result of four gun shot injuries.

The prosecution contend that Jonathan Keogh (32) threatened to kill Mr Hutch the evening before the shooting, that Thomas Fox (31) and Ms Keogh were instrumental in planning the murder, and Mr Keogh and another man, Mr AB, were the shooters.

Mr Fox with an address at Rutland Court, Dublin 1, Ms Keogh from Avondale House, Cumberland Street North, Dublin 1 and Mr Keogh of Gloucester Place, Dublin 1, have pleaded not guilty (NOT GUILTY) to murdering Mr Hutch.

Mr Fox has also denied unlawfully possessing a Makarov 9 mm handgun on May 23rd, 2016 at the same place.

Mr Gageby said the three-judge court has every reason to be careful about Mrs McDonnell’s evidence as certain benefits have flowed to her and she told untruths to gardaí. She had pointed her finger at Ms Keogh and attempted to “pull the wool over the eyes” of the court in aspects of her evidence.

One has to be careful of accomplices as they might fabricate evidence and it is natural to minimise ones own role in a crime, he said. The lawyer suggested that Mrs McDonnell knew about the facts of the crime and could easily “wind another person into it”, in an attempt to diminish her responsibility. Mrs McDonnell was an accomplice to murder to which duress is not a defence, he said, and facing a criminal investigation she downplayed her role.

The court previously heard that Mrs McDonnell was told she would receive €5,000 in payment if she let people sit in her flat, €1,000 up front and €4,000 at a later stage. Mrs McDonnell told the court that she thought this was a joke but money had been mentioned. Det Sgt Peter Woods gave evidence that Mrs McDonnell had not received any money.

Mrs McDonnell said on a number of occasions that she was an unwilling participant in anything to do with Mr Hutch’s murder, Mr Gageby said, and she believed she had done nothing wrong. She has a narrative that she was terrified, her liberty was curtailed and her will was overborne, he said and this needed to be scrutinised very carefully.

Mrs McDonnell gave evidence that the front door of her flat “nearly came in on top of her” when she answered it to Mr Keogh and another man on the morning of the shooting. She was not allowed move off her chair, open the curtain or make a cup of tea.

Mr Gageby said Mrs McDonnell’s daughter, Jessica McDonnell (19), had a “different account” when she gave evidence via video-link in the trial. Jessica heard her mother ask the two gunmen if anyone wanted tea or needed sugar before going into her daughters’ bedroom, he said.

This is the best evidence, Mr Gageby said, that Mrs McDonnell told lies to the court. Jessica’s evidence is “utterly inconsistent” with her mother’s testimony and it establishes that Mrs McDonnell is far from being the woman assaulted at the door, he said. “Jessica’s evidence says Mary was a willing hostess of the gunmen on the day of murder,” he said.

Counsel reminded the court that not only had the State witness got immunity but what “little charge” was laid against her had been dropped. From her eight interviews with gardaí, he said, she got “everything” she asked for. Mrs McDonnell was a complicit and willing participant in this crime, he said, and she got a great bargain in this case. This was hardly a mark of reliability, Mr Gageby argued, nor was she a witness of truth.

The lawyer submitted that the evidence in the case was that no promises were made to Mrs McDonnell but she had “moved” from being an uncooperative suspect to a cooperative one. She was treated with a great degree of levity and leniency, he said, which flowed from the fact that she was implicating a large number of people in this affair.

Mrs McDonnell gave evidence that she took medication for an epilepsy related illness and suffered from depression. She said she had been in hospital a lot over the years and while there Regina would look after her children. The court heard she occasionally had suicidal thoughts and had previously acted on them. It was usually Regina who came to stop her.

Mr Gageby said this evidence hardly portrayed his client as an accomplice to murder. Mrs McDonnell had “enormous reliance” on Regina, he said, and it was not a “mutual relationship” but a dependent one. “Why would she decide to point her finger at Regina who had previously been a stalwart friend to her?” he asked.

It is the State’s case that Ms Keogh went up to Mrs McDonnell’s flat on the night prior to the shooting and gave her rubber gloves to be used by the attackers the following day. Mr Gageby said it was more likely that Mrs McDonnell provided the gloves and not Regina.

The prosecution case, the defence counsel said, had lumped all the evidence together like an Irish stew or rather using cheaper pieces of meat akin to a coddle.

In conclusion, Mr Gageby asked the court to look cautiously at Mrs McDonnell’s evidence as she had made a number of assertions that had been demonstrated to be utterly false.

Summarising his client’s case, he said that there was highly potent evidence that Mrs McDonnell downplayed her own participation and “upped” that of others. “A reasonable Dublin jury in this case would consider it very dangerous to convict on Mrs McDonnell’s evidence when we know she has lied about her participation in the offence,” he added.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt presiding, remanded the three accused in custody until Monday, when the court will hear legal submissions in the case.