By Daniel Hickey
A detective who looked at a photo that had been taken outside the Regency Hotel in Dublin on the day of a fatal shooting there "immediately recognized" a man dressed as a woman and holding a gun as Patrick Hutch, the Special Criminal Court has heard this morning.
The detective denied under cross-examination that he and his colleague, who also identified Mr Hutch, were not separated during the identification process.
The shooting had happened, the court has previously heard, during a boxing weigh-in at the hotel, when a man dressed as a woman and another wearing a flat cap, armed with handguns, followed by three people dressed in tactical-style garda uniforms and carrying assault rifles, raided the venue.
Mr Hutch (25) of Champions Avenue, Dublin 1, is pleading not guilty to the murder of David Byrne (34) at the Regency Hotel in Dublin on February 5th 2016.
It is the prosecution’s case that Mr Hutch was the man dressed as a woman and that he did not shoot Mr Byrne but was part of a "shared intention" to commit the offence.
Mr Hutch also denies possessing three AK47 assault rifles in connection with the fatal shooting.
Michael O’Higgins SC, for Mr Hutch, told the court this morning/yesterday (Wed) that the defence is objecting to evidence that two detectives identified his client as the man dressed as the woman.
The evidence is therefore being heard in ’voir dire’ - or a ’trial within a trial’ - to help the three judges determine its admissibility.
The court heard today that two days after the fatal shooting two detectives, Fergal O’Flaherty and Jonathan Brady, went to Ballymun garda station to view a picture taken outside the Regency Hotel.
The court has previously heard evidence that a photographer contracted to the Sunday World, who was at the hotel to cover the weigh-in, took a photo of two people standing outside the hotel, and that one of them was wearing a wig and holding a gun.
Detective Garda O’Flaherty told prosecuting counsel Sean Gillane SC that he looked at the picture on a monitor in a small office in the station and "immediately recognized" the person on the left.
"I let it be known I knew who the person was," he said.
"Who was that person?" Mr Gillane asked.
"The man before the court," the detective said, "Patrick Hutch."
He said that he then spoke to Sergeant Patrick O’Toole outside the office and told him it was Patrick Hutch.
He said that he had known Mr Hutch "since he was a young fella".
"He was always very mannerly, always very polite," Det Gda O’Flaherty said.
Detective Garda Brady told Mr Gillane that his colleague had looked at the picture and said, "I know that person, I’m saying nothing".
He said that Det Gda O’Flaherty then came from behind the desk and left the room.
Det Gda Brady then went around to the other side of the desk and looked at the picture on the monitor, the court heard.
He said that he "immediately recognized the person on the left as Patrick Hutch" and that he was "the accused before the court".
The detective said that he knew Mr Hutch’s family and also the accused man.
The court heard that that in August 2014 Mr Hutch attended the Mater Hospital as a result of gunshot wounds and that the detective spoke to him but Mr Hutch refused to give information.
Det Gda Brady said that over the following weeks he met Mr Hutch again, asking him what had happened, but that Mr Hutch would not tell him.
He arrested the accused man on March 2nd, 2015 in relation to that shooting and interviewed him twice, the court heard.
Under cross-examination, the detective agreed with Mr O’Higgins that Mr Hutch has no previous convictions but that he is a person "well known" to gardai
"There is no way of avoiding the reality, he is a Hutch," the barrister said.
The detective agreed.
"And that has a certain resonance for An Garda Siochana," Mr O’Higgins said.
"We certainly have an interest in some of the Hutches," the detective said.
Mr O’Higgins then listed some of the references to the accused man in the Garda PULSE system.
He said that when in 1999 his client’s father had visited a garda station to get a passport his three children’s names were put on the passport and Patrick Hutch was seven years old at the time.
The detective agreed that gardai had been keeping information on Patrick Hutch and that there is a "family tree" in the PULSE records referring to the accused man’s brother, Gary Hutch, who was shot dead in Spain.
The court heard that there were thirty-seven incidents related to Patrick Hutch recorded in PULSE, and that "almost all of them", with the exception of the gunshot injury, were "pretty small stuff", including numerous drug searches and an incident when Mr Hutch’s presence outside a pub was "just simply noted".
The detective agreed that these records were kept to "build up a profile" on the accused man.
Mr O’Higgins said that he had counted almost 40 gardai having entered material about him and that the vast bulk were from officers in Store St and Mountjoy garda stations.
The detective agreed.
Mr O’Higgins then referred to the statements made by Detectives Brady and O’Flaherty seven days after the shooting at the Regency.
Both statements were read to the court.
The detective accepted that the statements were "very similar".
"Is that a coincidence?" Mr O’Higgins asked.
Det Gda Brady said that the statements were dealing with the same events and that both he and Det Gda O’Flaherty knew Mr Hutch for "pretty much the same reasons".
Mr O’Higgins then noted "six points of omission" in Det Gda Brady’s statement and said that the evidence heard earlier that the men were not in the office together when identifying Mr Hutch was not in the statements.
He suggested the reason for this omission was that it did not happen.
"The events did happen," the witness said.
Mr O’Higgins also read to the court from a transcript of bail hearing for Mr Hutch from December 21st, 2016, when Det Gda Brady had testified.
The court heard the detective had said that his colleague "stood and looked at the screen and said, ’I’ll let you decide’, and he stepped back," and that when when Det Gda Brady looked at the picture, he said, "’I knew who this was’, and I said who it was, and he [Det Gda O’Flaherty] said the same."
Mr O’Higgins suggested that there appeared to be a "single interpretation" which was "everybody having the conversation in each other’s presence".
The detective said that in evidence today he had given a "more detailed description of what had happened".
The court also heard that during the bail hearing Mr O’Higgins had asked the detective if before going to Ballymun garda station to view the photos was he "aware that the Hutch-Kinahan feud was something the guards were looking at?"
The detective said that he was aware and that it was "in the news".
The barrister said that he asked if it was known the detective knew any of the Hutches and the answer he gave was, "Judge, it’d be taken for granted I knew some of the Hutches, as would most members".
Mr O’Higgins then cross-examined Det Gda O’Flaherty, who said that although there were "some similarities" in their statements, they had made them "independently".
The detective said that when they walked into the office in Ballymun garda station, he did not know he was going to recognize somebody and that the evidence was not "contrived".
"We walked into the room together, and made the identification," he said.
He said that if he knew he was about to make an identification, they would have "went in separately".
"It didn’t work out that way," the witness added.
"What was the purpose of you leaving the room?" the barrister asked.
"If I had said his name out loud there and then, [Det Gda Brady’s] identification would have been no good," Det Gda O’Flaherty said
THe barrister put it to the detective that the reason why his first statement made no reference to him leaving the room and that he only named Mr Hutch outside the room was that it never happened.
"That’s not true," the detective said.
The trial continues tomorrow in front of Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, sitting with Judge Patricia Ryan and Judge Ann Ryan.