THIS is the dramatic moment Patrick Hutch walked free from court and sped off on a motorbike after the Regency Hotel shooting trial collapsed.
The 26-year-old had been accused of the murder of David Byrne at a boxing event at the hotel on February 5, 2016 and the illegal possession of firearms on the same date.
But the Dubliner appeared before the Special Criminal Court amid a high armed garda presence yesterday morning where counsel for the DPP Sean Gillane SC entered a nolle prosequi against him.
After he was told he was free to go, Hutch changed from the light grey suit and pink shirt he wore in court to grey tracksuit bottoms with a blue jacket.
He was pictured walking with his head down through the gates of the court complex to a waiting motorcyle where he was given a black helmet to wear.
After fixing the helmet in place he then climbed onto the back of the motorbike as a pillion passenger and sped away from the courts, a free man.
Earlier, the court heard how following the death of Detective Superintendent Colm Fox, the prosecution was not in a position to lead the evidence on a number of topics.
The nolle prosequi allows the State to withdraw all charges with the possibility of re-entering them in the future.
Gardai have since launched increased patrols in parts of Dublin to prevent a Kinahan backlash over the charges being dropped. Detectives believe Hutch is a key target for the Kinahan cartel, though he is not expected to remain in the country.
There was massive security around the Courts of Criminal Justice in Dublin 8 ahead of yesterday’s hearing.
Dozens of Garda Public Order Unit members milled around the lobby of the building, while those entering the courtroom had to pass through a metal detector and show ID to gardai.
Inside the courtroom, ten more members of the unit stood in a line down along the central passageway of the court.
Following yesterday’s nolle prosequi, it remains uncertain whether anyone will ever be tried again over the Regency Hotel shooting which shocked the nation on February 5, 2016.
The trial had been stalled last year over the disclosure by the prosecution of emails between four gardai.
Notes written by the late Det Supt Fox were handed into the court and read by the three judges.
The court was subsequently told a report into the death of Det Supt Fox was being prepared.
This report concerned the analysis of electronic data — a mobile phone, two USB devices and a laptop computer.
Row over identification of Hutch
THE trial had been stalled shortly after opening in January 2018, following legal argument over how Patrick Hutch was identified as the gunman dressed as a woman from press photographs.
Two detectives — Fergal O’Flaherty and Jonathan Brady — said they did so separately after being brought to a room at Ballymun Garda Station in the presence of Det Sgt Patrick O’Toole and Garda Michael Ryan.
But the defence claimed they had made the ID in each other’s presence, which could compromise their view.
Judge Tony Hunt ruled against the defence and allowed the identification.
But the defence then requested disclosure of emails between the four gardai.
Three days after that, lead investigator Det Supt Colm Fox was found dead in tragic circumstances and the trial was subsequently adjourned repeatedly.
Meanwhile, last night gardai launched increased patrols in Dublin to prevent a Kinahan cartel backlash over the charges being dropped.
Hutch had been accused of being the pistol-wielding man in drag who accompanied three gunmen dressed in Swat-style Garda uniforms and dissident republican Kevin Murray — nicknamed ‘Flat Cap’ after the hat he wore.
The assassins were after Kinahan cartel boss Daniel Kinahan in revenge for the murder of Patrick Hutch’s brother Gary at his rented accommodation on the Costa del Sol in September 2015 — for which Kinahan hitman James Quinn was handed a 22-year jail term in Spain last June.
Opening the prosecution’s case in January 2018, Mr Gillane SC told the court the hotel was hosting a weigh-in for a boxing event scheduled for the following day, billed as the Clash of the Clans.
He said the event, which had been widely publicised on social media, was a co-promotion between Queensberry Promotions, run by boxing promoter Frank Warren, and MGM, a Marbella-based firm which runs a boxing management company and a boxing gym.
He added that the event was to include boxers associated with the MGM gym, which “enjoyed the patronage of a number of people”, and that the prosecution case is that “a number of these people’s presence might have been anticipated at the event”.
The barrister said the court would hear evidence that as the weigh-in commenced, at 2.20pm on February 5, 2016, a silver van parked up outside the hotel and some seven minutes or so later, a man wearing a flat cap and a man wearing a wig got out of the van and walked toward the hotel — their progress captured on CCTV.
He said the court would hear evidence from eye-witnesses that boxer Gerry Sweeney was finishing his weigh-in, when there were “gunfire, gunshots and cracking sounds” and “panic ensued”.
Mr Gillane said the man with the wig and the man with the flat cap were seen carrying guns, running down the corridor following, or chasing, people.
He said the court would hear evidence that at 2.29pm the same silver van pulled up in front of the hotel before three individuals dressed as gardai got out of the van and went to the hotel’s entrance, carrying assault rifles.
He told the court it would hear several shots were immediately discharged from the weapons, which caused “all-round panic”.
He said the manner in which the three people were dressed caused more confusion — with some believing they were gardai there to deal with the incident.
Mr Gillane said the court would hear the deceased, Mr Byrne, was in a group running toward the main reception when he was shot by one of the men dressed as a garda with an assault rifle, and shot again by another man dressed as a guard.
Mr Byrne was injured and made his way to the reception desk, the barrister said.
Mr Gillane said the court would also see footage of a BBC reporter jumping over the reception desk, lying on the ground and taking cover before one of the men in Garda uniform jumped onto the reception desk, pointed the weapon at the reporter but did not discharge.
He said the gunman then jumped back over the counter, to where Mr Byrne was lying on the ground, and “calmly and coldly” discharged rounds into the victim.
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Mr Gillane said the prosecution’s case would also establish the raiders were looking for a specific person and the man in the wig was heard shouting “He’s not f***ing here” and “I can’t f***ing find him”.
He said the alleged gunmen all left the hotel in the van which drove towards Charlemont Estate where it was burnt out.
He also said the prosecution’s case was all six people, including the driver, were involved in a “resourced, carefully planned, targeted, murderous attack” and there was a “shared intention to commit the offence”.