Armed police, members of the underworld and a fascinated public are expected to converge on a Dublin courthouse this week for what has been dubbed Ireland’s gangland trial of the century.
Gerry “the Monk” Hutch, 58, a prominent crime boss, is to be tried for a 2016 murder that fuelled a lethal feud between rival gangs that still simmers six years later.
Heavy security is expected at the special criminal court for a case that is set to last months and lay bare the inner workings of the Hutch cartel.
Prosecutors received a boost earlier this month when a co-defendant, Jonathan Dowdall, cut a deal for a reduced charge in return for testifying against Hutch. Hutch denies the murder charge, which carries a life sentence.
The case centres on an attack in February 2016: masked men disguised as police and armed with assault rifles stormed Dublin’s Regency hotel to target rival gangsters during a boxing bout weigh-in. They killed David Byrne, a member of the Kinahan cartel, stoking a tit-for-tat feud that claimed 18 lives between 2015 and 2018, which still rumbles on.
Dowdall, 44, a former Sinn Féin councillor, caused a media sensation when he pleaded guilty to facilitating the murder by renting a room in the Regency for the gunmen. He gave a 50-page statement to police. He is to be sentenced on Monday along with his father Patrick who also pleaded guilty to facilitating the attack.
After testifying at Hutch’s trial and serving any custodial sentence Jonathan Dowdall is expected to assume a new identity abroad in a witness protection programme. “It’s like taking your life as it was known and standing it on its head for you and your family,” said his lawyer, Michael O’Higgins.
Gardaí have launched an investigation into an alleged campaign of intimidation against Dowdall and his family, with Twitter accounts reportedly branding him a “rat” and warning he had nowhere to run.
Dowdall’s decision to testify delayed Hutch’s trial, which had been due to start in early October, because it required a “fundamental reappraisal of the defence strategy”, Brendan Grehan, said at the time. Last week Grehan said the defence was ready. “The accused is anxious for the trial to proceed. From our point of view it’s all systems go.”
The special criminal court tries terrorism and organised crime cases. It sits with three judges and has no jury.
Hutch is to be tried with Paul Murphy, 59, and Jason Bonney, 50, who are accused of facilitating the murder by providing access to vehicles.
The Monk has made headlines for decades. Associates gave him the nickname on the basis of a relatively restrained personality and lifestyle: he is reportedly soft-spoken and contemplative, physically fit, seldom drinks, does not take drugs and sends his children to private schools.
“My philosophy in life is simple enough,” Hutch told the journalist Veronica Guerin in a 1996 interview. “No betrayal. That means you don’t talk about others, you don’t grass and you never let people down.” Guerin was later murdered by gunmen working for another crime boss.
In a 2008 RTE TV interview Hutch said: “Yeah, I done crimes, some of them I got away with.”
Hutch’s battle with the Kinahan cartel, which is based in north Dublin, erupted in 2015 when a gunman murdered his nephew, Gary Hutch, in Spain. Hutch’s gang allegedly responded with the attack at the Regency hotel. Spanish police arrested Hutch in the Costa del Sol in August 2021 as a result of an Irish extradition warrant.
The US Treasury department dealt a blow to the Kinahan group in April when it sanctioned seven members, including its leader Daniel Kinahan. It said the gang used Dubai as a hub for drug trafficking and money laundering in Ireland, the UK, Spain and elsewhere.
Irish media cited Garda sources saying they expected Kinahan members to scout Hutch’s trial.