#0445

Regency Hotel Shooting

The Murder of David Byrne

Regency Hotel Shooting

"I can't fucking find him"

In early February 2016, one man was killed and two others seriously wounded in what was described by the press as the Regency Hotel shooting, an armed attack perpetrated by Irish drug gang members well known in the criminal underworld. The armed confrontation happened when a large number of people were in attendance at the Regency Hotel in Whitehall, Dublin, where a WBO boxing match weigh-in was taking place. Among this large crowd was boxing promoter Daniel Kinahan, and several of his friends.

However, what many in the crowd that day did not realise was that Kinahan is the reputed gang leader in the Kinahan Cartel, an alleged organized crime group accused of smuggling drugs and firearms throughout the world. While Kinahan and his associates were mixing with boxing fans, others had been busy plotting, and outside a hit squad was poised ready to perpetrate an armed attack. The Hutch Gang, members of a rival criminal organization would orchestrate the shooting in revenge for the death of one of their own.

They appeared, to most on-lookers, to be a rather mis-matched pairing. To others, they looked just plain odd together. What appeared to be a younger woman with auburn hair and glasses wearing a full length bomber jacket and boots, walking beside an older rotund man wearing a tracksuit and a beige flatcap, they couldn’t have looked more out of place. But this odd-couple were members of the violent Hutch Gang, a criminal organization embroiled in a deadly conflict with the powerful Kinahan Cartel, and they were there to kill.

The Regency Hotel

On February 5, 2016, 300 people were attending the ‘Clash of Clans’ sporting events ahead of the WBO European lightweight title. The event started at around 2:00pm, and several boxer had already taken to the podium for the weigh-in. With music playing and cameras flashing, the crowd of boxing spectators, including women and children, were enjoying the atmosphere and excited for the fight between Jamie Kavanagh and Antonio João Bento, was to take place the next night at the Regency Hotel. However, 20 minutes later, the room was filled with screams.

Of the numerous footage which captured the events, some showed the exact moment the gunmen burst into the hotel lobby next to a function room where the weigh-in for the boxing match was just finishing up. Just as boxer Gary Sweeney took to the scales, panic ensued. At that moment, two gunmen, later described as dressed in disguises entered the room. One was wearing a flatcap, while his accomplice was dressed as a women.

Witnesses later said that these two men then proceeded to pursue people down a corridor. At this point, spectators, boxers and trainers scattered in fear for their lives. Meanwhile, outside a silver Ford transit van drove through a security gate and pulled up outside the front entrance to the hotel. Inside were three men dressed in Garda-style uniforms.

The two gunmen of the 'tactical team' entering the hotel.

Two of these men wearing masks, military style-helmets, flak jackets and carrying AK-47 assault rifles, stormed into the hotel entrance. These were later described as the “tactical team”. At this moment chairs were tossed aside as people started to scream. As one of the tactical team members walked inside the reception area he dropped a handgun. CCTV footage from inside the hotel then showed another of the tactical team picking up that weapon.

It was then that a group of people began fleeing towards the main reception area, and one of these people, later identified as 33-year-old David Byrne, was shot by one of the masked men with an assault rifle, and then a second time by the other tactical team member. Byrne was injured and fell to the ground, and attempted to make his way to the reception area. The masked men then returned to where he was lying and shot Byrne again.

David Byrne lying dead inside the Regency Hotel.

Sports reporter Kevin McAnena, who was covering the weigh-in, said that one of the two gunmen dressed in Garda-style uniforms pointed a “big, massive” gun at him as he sought cover in the lobby during the attack. “I jumped over the reception desk, I think I smashed the vase on my way, then the gunman came over to reception, looked down at me and pointed the gun at me, and I shouted, I was shouting even before he came over ‘don’t shoot, don’t shoot,'” he said. “[The gunman] said something to me, but I don’t known what he even said.”

“I can’t remember at this point, I just know I’ve never felt terror like it, I was really, really scared and then after that it was just silence.” McAnena said he witnessed the gunman firing into a victim’s leg. “The man I saw being shot in the leg, it the man who is now dead, he was no more than six foot from me,” he said. “The gunshots that I head after I jumped over the receptionist’s desk were probably the gunshots that finished him off.” Mr McAnena said he head two shots outside the hotel and at least three more inside.

Another witness, Chris McDonaugh spoke about the moment that a ‘gangster’ pointed a gun in his face and ‘pinned him to the floor’. When reassuring his friends and family over Facebook that he was safe, McDonaugh said “people rushed into the hotel, pointed an AK47 in our face and demanded we get down.” He wrote, “(The gunman) then shot the man one foot next to me… that was close!” Others who were present at the Regency Hotel shooting described how they believed the shooting was a terrorist attack, with one woman heard saying; “What the fuck is going on?”

The dead man, David Byrne was hit in the head and body, up to six times with high velocity ammunition. His body bore wounds to his head, face, abdomen, thigh and hand. his body was seen by a number of witnesses, slumped against the hotel reception desk “riddled” with bullets. It was at this point that the man wearing the wig shouted, “He’s not fucking here, I couldn’t find him.” The gang were searching for Daniel Kinahan, the reputed leader of their rival criminal organization, the Kinahan Cartel, who is believed to have been the intended target, but who had left the venue early.

However, Kinahan had left the venue earlier, and was not present when the masked gunmen entered the hotel. Byrne and several of his associates had stayed behind. The two other men wounded in the attack, Sean McGovern and Aaron Bolger, friend’s of Byrne, were rushed to The Mater and Beaumont hospitals with suspected gunshot wounds. Byrne was reputed to be one of Dublin’s most notorious drug dealers and was considered a key member of the Kinahan Cartel, who were involved an escalating feud with the Hutch Gang, another criminal organization.

Shortly after the shooting stopped, the gunmen ran out of the hotel towards the waiting Ford transit van, which was later found burnt out at the back of a housing estate of Griffith Avenue in north Dublin. They were then alleged to have fled on foot into St. Vincent’s GAA Ground where they “made good their escape,” according to one Garda source, in a number of cars. Box Nation, the television channel that was scheduled to broadcast the boxing fight said in a statement on Twitter, that the show had been cancelled due to the shooting.

The man wearing a wig and 'flatcap' running away from the scene of the crime.

The Garda released a statement, in which they said they were looking for at least four people they believed were involved in the incident. Two were described as wearing police-style uniforms similar to a SWAT team uniform, including metal helmets and armed with automatic weapons. One gunman was disguised as a woman and wearing an auburn wig while carrying a handgun. Another stocky man, wearing a beige cap, was also seen carrying a handgun. The Garda said the attack could be the start of a major North-vs-South Dublin crime war between the Kinahan Cartel and the Hutch Gang.

The Kinahan vs. Hutch Feud

The reason for David Byrne’s death is complicated, and because of the murky nature of the criminal underworld, many of the details may never be known. But what is known, is that at one time the Hutch Gang and the Kinahan Cartel enjoyed a working criminal relationship. Both organizations were led by the patriarchs of their respective families, with a man known as “The Monk” leading the Hutch family, and Christy Kinahan at the head of the criminal organization that bore his name. Gary Hutch, the nephew of Gerry “The Monk” Hutch, had been working closely with Daniel Kinahan for many years.

The catalyst for this feud is believed to have begun several years before the Regency Hotel shooting, when sometime in 2014, former Kinahan associate Gary Hutch was suspected by underworld sources of being an informant for the Spanish police. For reasons that are unclear, Gary Hutch, noted hot-head and loudmouth, also tried to shoot a senior Kinahan gang member. It has been alleged that Gerry Hutch had organised with Daniel Kinahan for a close associate of Gerry’s to be shot in a “punishment shooting”, as compensation for Gary’s supposed role as an informant and for his attempt on the life of a Kinahan associate.

The Kinahan gang have a long association with boxing both in Dublin and Marbella. The bout at the Regency Hotel was being promoted by Frank Warren and MGM Promotions, a Marbella based gym run by Birmingham-born Irish boxer Matthew Macklin. In 2014, former European light-middleweight boxing champion Jamie Moore, who was shot twice in the legs in Marbella, where he was training Macklin at the time. It is believed this was the shooting incident involving Gary Hutch, for which he would be indebted to the Kinahan Cartel.

Patrick Hutch, Gary’s brother, is alleged to have voluntarily offered himself to be shot in the leg by Daniel Kinahan in an attempt to save his brother’s life. Additionally, €200,000 was to be paid to the Kinahan family by Gary Hutch, in exchange for his life. Both deals, however, were reneged upon. In retaliation, 34-year-old Gary Hutch, who was a “well-known” criminal in Dublin and who had previously been convicted of armed robbery, was executed by a masked gunman following his early morning run at his Costa del Sol bolthole in Marbella, in September 2015.

Hutch had been living in Spain for the previous eight years, and it is believed he was unarmed at the time of his killing. Hutch was reported have pleaded for his life before being shot by his killer. After his death, it was learned that the allegation that he was a police informer was discovered to have been false. Despite this, the revenge attacks continued. On October 9, 2015, two weeks after Gary Hutch was murdered, his younger brother Derek “Del Boy” Hutch was survived being stabbed while serving a sentence for murder in Mountjoy prison. A €10,000 bounty had been put on his head by Christy Kinahan.

Aftermath and Investigation

Shortly after the Regency Hotel shooting, the Kinahan Cartel struck back. On February 8, 2016, Eddie Hutch Snr, an uncle of Gary Hutch, was shot dead at his home. The motive for his death is suspected to be revenge for the death of David Byrne. Later that same month, Vincent Ryan was shot dead while sitting in his car outside his partner’s home in Finglas on February 29, 2016. An IRA member and brother of Real IRA leader Alan Ryan, Vincent was murdered by members of the Kinahan gang, though sources differ on whether or not this was related to the Hutch-Kinahan conflict. Other murders would follow.

In the aftermath of the attack, arrest were made in the case. Security camera recordings suggested that as many as six people had been involved, including a man disguised as a woman. One line of inquiry was the involvement of the IRA. Shortly after the shooting a call was placed to the BBC, in which the caller claimed that the Continuity IRA had carried out the attack because Byrne had been involved in the killing of Real IRA member Alan Ryan four years previously. With the murder of Vincent Ryan, the involvement of the IRA was also suspected by members of the Kinahan Cartel.

One of the gunmen inside the lobby of the Regency Hotel.

Several months after the Regency Hotel shooting, on April 25, 2016, New IRA member Michael Barr was shot and killed in the Sunset House Bar in Summerhill, Dublin. The Garda suspected that the Republican had been killed by the Kinahan gang because of his involvement in the shooting of David Byrne. There was also speculation that the intended target was actually a member of the Hutch family who had been drinking at the bar at the time. Eamonn Cumberton and David Hunter were later arrested, charged and sentenced for the crime.

Michael Barr was believed to have been a dissident Republican associate of “Flat Cap”, one of the alleged gunmen seen by witnesses and photographed leaving the scene of the murder alongside the other gunman dressed as a women. The Continuity IRA later made a statement in which they said that it was not responsible for the murder of David Byrne at the Regency Hotel. Flat Cap was soon identified as a rogue dissident Republican working on behalf of the Hutch Gang, by the name of Kevin Murray.

In September 2016, Murray was arrested and questioned on suspicion of his involvement in the murder of David Byrne, however a court in Belfast heard in December 2016, that Murray, by that time barely able to walk, had just a few months to live. He had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of motor neuron disease. Despite his illness, the Kinahan Cartel made plans to murder Murray, with one associate, hitman Jonathan Keogh, travelling to County Tyrone to carry out the killing. Keogh however, was not able to carry out his mission because Murray was under PSNI surveillance.

Kevin “Flat Cap” Murray was due to face murder and firearm charges on foot of a European Arrest warrant ordered by the Irish Director of Public Prosecutions. However, by May 2017, the court was told that Murray was confined to his bed and was being fed through a tube. A judge ruled that because of his diagnosis of terminal MND and his rapidly deteriorating health meant he could not be extradited to the Republic of Ireland to stand trial for murder. On August 9, 2017, Murray died at his home in Townsend Street in Strabane.

Trial

Investigators also attempted to identify Murray’s accomplice, the man who was dressed as a woman during the Regency Hotel shooting. This man was believed to have been Patrick Hutch, the brother of Gary Hutch, who was charged on May 18, 2016, at the Criminal Courts of Justice with the murder of David Byrne. His trial for murder and possession of firearms was later set for January 2018 at the non-jury Special Criminal Court, and he was denied bail. Hutch also faced criminal charges for the possession of three assault rifles of Romanian, Czech and Chinese origin on the day of the Regency Hotel shooting.

On the opening day of his trial, before a non-jury, three judge court, 25-year-old Patrick Hutch was asked how he pleaded, to which he replied, “Not guilty your honour.” The prosecution Sean Gillane alleged that Hutch had acted in a joint enterprise with five other people. He said, “The six acted together in a resourced, carefully planned, targeted, murderous attack with perfected callousness to a prone man.” On the day of the murder, there were a number of people associated with MGM, one of whom was Daniel Kinahan.

Patrick Hutch, the man accused of being the gunman dressed as a woman during the Regency Hotel attack.

The prosecutor alleged that at 2:20pm, a silver van pulled up at the Grace Manor housing development, and seven minutes later, it is claimed CCTV footage captured the moment “a man wearing a flat cap and a man wearing a wig,” walked towards the Regency through an adjoining gate. He said, “The same two individuals arrived to the laundry room entrance which was unguarded and unlocked,” adding there will be CCTV evidence and oral evidence from witnesses. One of those witnesses was an employee working at the Regency hotel.

He claimed to the police that he spoke to both the man wearing the flat cap and was asked directions by the man wearing a blonde wig, high heels and black coat, to the MGM meeting. The employee said he realised he was speaking to a man “with a Dublin accent”. Both of these men were seen carrying handguns. As they began pursuing people down a corridor, a silver Ford transit van pulled up outside the front entrance, and three men armed with assault rifles emerged dressed as Gardai.

The identity of these men has never been ascertained, and they were described collectively in court as the “tactical team”, and individually as “Tac One, Tac Two and Tac Three.” The two men described as “Tac One and Tac Two” who were responsible for shooting dead David Byrne. Mr. Gillane said, “He was injured and fell to the ground and made his way to reception area.” It was then that the tactical team returned to the reception area and shot Byrne again in the head and body.

The court was told he was hit six times with high-velocity ammunition. The gang then escaped from the scene of the crime. The court was told the case against Hutch includes witness and CCTV statements and footage from new crews. Two detective Gardai also gave evidence that they identified the defendant from images taken that day, whose address was given as Champions Avenue, in north inner-city Dublin, as the man in the blonde wig.

It was also announced that the gunman known as “Flat Cap” was identified as Kevin Murray, who had since died. The photographs were taken of the suspects by a photographer working for The Sunday World. The prosecution said that Garda recovered the three assault rifles during a follow up operation in County Meath. Following ballistic examination, the rounds recovered at the crime scene at the Regency Hotel were determined as a match to those fired by the rifles.

David Byrne, the victim of the Regency Hotel shooting and an associate of the Kinahan Cartel.

The court was told that the gunmen were targeting Daniel Kinahan, and wanted to shoot him in revenge for the murder of Dublin criminal Gary Hutch, who was shot dead in Marbella, Spain in September 2015. However, before they could kill him, Kinahan fled to safety from the venue, while his associate David Byrne was shot dead, and two others wounded. In a dramatic and unforeseen moment, the case against Hutch collapsed on Wednesday, February 20, 2018.

Although the images of the two men seen running from the crime scene were the key evidence on which the case would be decided, and came under intense scrutiny, they were not the reason for the collapse. Rather than any issue with the contentious photographs, the reason given was the death of Det Supt Colm Fox, who led the murder investigation, and had taken his own life twelve months previously.

He had left notes about the case, stating that he could not be questioned in court and so the trial process could go no further. In court it became known that the photographs had been distributed to Garda stations so that members of the police force might help identify the man dressed as a woman. However, approximately 500 Garda members failed to identify him. However, when the case came to court, it emerged that two Garda members had identified Patrick Hutch as the man in the photographs, and had done so independently of each other.

Michael O’Higgins SC, who defended Patrick Hutch had mounted a legal argument in a bid to stop the photographs being admitted into evidence, because of the way the images had been handled, he claimed, was very poor and marked by no record keeping. He argued the Hutch family were linked to the shooting, and the two Garda members knew Patrick Hutch better than other members of his family, and so would name him. The three judges, Tony Hunt, Patricia Ryan and Ann Ryan ruled however that the photographs should be admitted as evidence.

Patrick Hutch was released without charge, and immediately went into hiding. In February 2019, the Garda Headquarters and the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) announced they would both independently launch inquiries into the collapse of the trial. It emerged that among the notes left by Det Supt Colm Fox, one referred to an error of judgement which appears to relate to the inquiry under his management. Because of his death, Fox could answer questions relating to the notes and other evidence and so the trial collapsed.

Aftermath

It was announced that should new evidence emerge in the murder investigation of David Byrne, then Patrick Hutch could in theory go on trial again, however such a move is not anticipated. In the several years after the Regency Hotel shooting, scores of people have been killed and wounded in connection with the Hutch-Kinahan feud. In 2016 alone, ten people were murdered, six of whom were associated with the Hutch Gang, one belong to the Kinahan organization and the others were cases of mistaken identity.

In October 2020, it was reported that a 26-year-old Hutch gang member had been arrested with a Coolock criminal by Garda detectives who halted an alleged drugs handover in which over three kilos of cannabis were seized. The Kinahan cartel reportedly believe this Hutch gang member was involved in the Regency Hotel attack. On August 12, 2021, 58-year-old Gerry “The Monk” Hutch was arrested in southern Spain on foot of a European Arrest Warrant in connection with the shooting. Although he is not suspected of being one of the gunmen that day, he is due to stand trial for planning the Regency Hotel shooting.

The Kinahan feud with their rivals the Hutch Gang has claimed the lives of eighteen people since September 2015. when Gary Hutch was murdered. As many as sixty people have been arrested in connection with the conflict, that continues to claim the lives of criminals and innocents alike. Although the death of David Byrne did not ignite the gang war, the Regency Hotel shooting did served to escalate the ongoing and costly feud between the Hutch Gang and their former criminal associates the powerful Kinahan Cartel.

Written by Nucleus

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