‘Who wants to live like this?’ asks mother of murdered David Byrne after collapse of trial
Patrick Hutch Jnr, acquitted on all charges, speeds from court on motorbike
Sadie Byrne, mother of David Byrne who was murdered at the Regency Hotel in Dublin in 2016 reacts outside the Special Criminal Court in Dublin after charges where dropped against Patrick Hutch. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Armed gardaí have become a regular presence around the Criminal Courts of Justice in the last three years.
Since the eruption of Hutch-Kinahan feud, a series of major gangland criminals have passed through the court complex on Parkgate Street. Some have walked free, most have received lengthy prison terms.
Early on, garda management decided an armed presence was needed during such hearings in case someone did the unthinkable and attempted to murder a witness or family member attending court.
Members of the Public Order Unit, minus their riot helmets but equipped with the large batons, patrolled the inside of the building during while the Armed Support Unit manned checkpoints outside.
All of those units were present in force on Wednesday morning for the conclusion of the trial of Patrick Hutch Junior who was accused of the murder of Kinahan lieutenant David Byrne.
The gunning down of Byrne at the Regency Hotel in February 2016 by men dressed as gardaí was the spark that started the feud which has to date claimed some 16 lives.
Technically, Hutch’s trial has lasted well over a year, making it the longest in the history of the State. But in reality it heard only four days of evidence before being repeatedly adjourned throughout last 2018 as more information came to light regarding how the accused was identified by detectives following the shooting.
The tragic death of the lead investigator, Detective Superintendent Colm Fox in February made everything much more complicated. The respected garda was found dead in Ballymun Garda Station in February 2018 near a loaded garda firearm.
Soon rumours and theories began to circulate about Fox’s death and the contents of notes he had written beforehand concerning the investigation. Most of these were based on little more than idle gossip and Chinese whispers.
This swirl of rumours wasn’t helped by the cryptic allusions to the contents of internal garda communications by barristers whenever the matter was heard in court.
“This is all very mysterious and elliptical,” Mr Justice Tony Hunt remarked at one point. Ordinarily the contents of the notes would have leaked but for months, legal and garda sources kept the tightest of lids on the evidence. This did nothing to quiet the conspiracy theories.
It was an open secret that the trial was going to collapse on Wednesday, even if the exact reasons remained somewhat of a mystery.
David Byrne’s mother Sadie said she was told three weeks ago that “it was going around the Law Library” the trial would collapse. She rang a garda who assured her that was not true but earlier this week the same garda knocked on her door and told her “that chap is walking free”.
The garda was right. At 11am on Wednesday, gardaí formed a line down the middle of the court to keep the rival families away from each other. Hutch, aware of what was going to happen, was brought in by prison officers.
Dressed in a grey suit and pink shirt, the 26-year-old showed no emotion as prosecuting counsel Sean Gillane SC told the three judge Special Criminal Court that all charges against him were withdrawn. The Byrne family shouted “disgrace” and a “farce” as the judges walked out.
Ordinarily when a murder accused is acquitted they must return to Cloverhill Prison for processing before being released.
This didn’t happen with Hutch. He was immediately released from custody and left through a side door. He got on the back of a waiting motorbike which sped off past the armed garda checkpoint on the road outside.
Meanwhile on the steps of the court building, Sadie Byrne still had a lot to say, much of it unprintable for legal reasons.
“His life is not in danger from us,” she said when asked if Patrick Hutch is now at risk. “Who wants a feud? Who wants to live like this? Who wants their child riddled?” she asked reporters.
In the end the waiting gardaí had little to do. At about 11.30am they were alerted about two young men acting suspiciously outside a garage 100 metres down the road.
Officers armed with machine guns arrived within seconds and arrested the suspects. Each was found to be carrying a butter knife.
“This is not believed to be linked to any activity in the courts today,” a garda spokesman said.