Gardaí seize media images for Regency hotel murder inquiry
Lack of Garda surveillance at the event due to dearth of funds, claim some in force
A number of print and online media outlets anticipated gangland figures would be at the boxing tournament weigh-in at the Regency Airport Hotel and sent journalists there. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times
Gardaí investigating the gun attack at a Dublin hotel that left Dublin criminal David Byrne dead and two others wounded have been seizing images and video footage recorded by the media who were present.
A number of print and online media outlets anticipated that gangland figures would be in attendance at the boxing tournament weigh-in where the six killers struck last Friday, and so sent journalists there to monitor the event.
Some of them took video footage and photographs of the five gunmen - three wearing police-style combat uniforms and carrying AK 47s - entering the Regency Hotel in Dublin and making their escape after the attack.
Because there was no Garda surveillance of the event, detectives have gone to several media outlets and seized their images and video footage.
A number of senior Garda sources said there was embarrassment in the force over the matter.
“Journalists effectively had it under surveillance but it doesn’t appear that any of our people were there,” said one officer.
Others said that in the past, serious gang figures and subversives were placed under surveillance very frequently and their movements were constantly recorded, or collated, on the Garda’s Pulse computer database.
This helped build intelligence on their movements, associates and any changes in their routine.
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) agreed surveillance had been deprioritised for financial reasons of late.
General secretary John Jacob said because overtime budgets were now so low, despite the investment of an extra €5 million in Operation Thor, Garda managers took the view that spending money on surveillance had become high-risk.
“If they spend on surveillance and something happens later in the year - a major crime that needs a big investigation - they’ll need to go [to Garda headquarters] with the begging bowl for more money and they won’t get a favourable response.”
He added the movements and actions of serious criminal figures were no longer being collated in the way they had been before overtime was cut so significantly.
Last Friday’s attack is believed to have been carried out by associates of late Dublin man Gary Hutch and was intended to kill members of an Irish crime gang mainly based near Marbella in southern Spain and led by Dublin man Christy Kinahan.
When Hutch was shot dead in Spain last September, Kinahan’s gang was believed to be responsible, with last Friday’s attack a revenge ambush.
Gardaí believe at least six attackers were at the scene. As well as the three men dressed in combat-style police uniforms, another man was disguised as a woman and was armed with a handgun. A fifth man, also armed with a handgun, wore only a flat cap as a disguise.
The sixth man drove the van that brought the killers to and from the scene.
Gardaí stepped up checks at airports and ports in an effort to prevent those involved in the crime trying to flee the jurisdiction.
Crumlin man Byrne, who split his time between Dublin and Spain and was one of a group of men who ran much of Kinahan’s affairs in Ireland, was shot six times.
He and a number of other criminals were in the hotel to attend the weigh-in for a boxing tournament due to take place in the city on Saturday night promoted by Frank Warren and MGM Promotions.
Christy Kinahan’s son Daniel Kinahan was in the hotel at the time and was believed to be the armed gang’s main target. But gardaí believe multiple fatalities were intended.
The same sources say they were “alarmed” at the type of weapons used. They said the firearms and meticulous planning was on a par with the best-drilled units of the Provisional IRA at the height of the Troubles.
It also appeared the gang had sent people into the weigh-in posing as spectators but who were checking if the targeted criminals were in attendance and where exactly they were seated or standing at the time.
Some officers believe the murder gang may have already fled the jurisdiction and that key figures on both sides of the feud in Dublin have already stepped up their personal security.