A man attending a boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel in Dublin was "relieved" when people he thought were gardaí arrived after a shooting before one of them took aim with a gun and shot a person, the Special Criminal Court has heard today.
The evidence was heard today during the second day of the trial of Patrick Hutch (aged 25) of Champions Avenue, Dublin 1, who is pleading not guilty to the murder of David Byrne (aged 34) at the Regency Hotel in Dublin on February 5, 2016.
It is the prosecution's case that the accused man shared an intention with five other men to commit the offence.
Mr Hutch also denies possessing three AK47 assault rifles in connection with the fatal shooting.
The court heard evidence today from Mel Christie, former president of the Boxing Union of Ireland.
He told prosecuting counsel Sean Gillane SC that an international boxing event had been organized for Saturday February 6th at the National Boxing Stadium and that a number of fighters with MGM management were on the bill.
The court heard that on the day before the scheduled event, Mr Christie went with former Eurosport boxing commentator Rinze Van Der Meer to the Regency Hotel, where a weigh-in was to take place.
The men arrived at 1.45pm, and Mr Christie, who was to supervise the weigh-in, had brought a weighing-scales, the court heard. Mr Christie said that the weigh-in took place in a room called the Regency Suite.
The court heard that Gary Sweeney, a boxer from Mayo, was the last fighter to be weighed in.
Mr Sweeney had just stepped down from the scales and Mr Christie had confirmed the boxer's weight when there was a "cracking noise", the court was told.
"It was a commotion," Mr Christie said. "Suddenly you were aware people were tumbling over chairs and seeking cover."
"I was aware the cracking noise were gunshots," he said.
He added that he then became aware of two people running to his left.
"Essentially one was a stocky middle-aged man with a cap and he was trying to keep up, slightly behind a younger person, who was obviously male but dressed as a female," the witness said.
Both men were carrying pistols, the court heard.
Mr Christie said that the woman dressed as a man was holding the pistol close to his stomach, and running, not very fast.
"He was doing his best to stay calm and was running calmly and the stocky gentleman was keeping up with him," he said.
The court heard that the two men went past the stage and down a corridor. Mr Christie said that the commotion had got worse because it was clear that two people had been shot.
"I heard groans, also there were a lot of fearful utterances," he said.
He said that after that there were at least eight "far louder gunshots" which came from what he subsequently realized was the reception area.
Mr Christie said that he went outside with Mr Van Der Meer, who was "quite shocked", into a small yard, where they stayed outside for a few minutes, until the gunfire ceased.
After going back inside, Mr Christie could hear groaning and saw two individuals, who seemed to have leg and abdominal gunshot injuries, lying on the ground.
The court heard that a professional cuts-man was attending to one of the injured men, staunching the wounds.
Mr Christie said he made the decision there would be no boxing that night or the following night.
They left the hotel, the court heard, and that was when the witness saw the body of a man, slumped up against the reception desk.
"Outside, there were huddles of people in a highly frenzied mood," he said, adding that, "A number of these people, you could see they were looking for vengeance."
During cross-examination, a photo of the man wearing the wig was shown to Mr Christie. Michael O'Higgins SC, for the accused, suggested, "Looking at that, it's not obviously a man."
Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, said, "The hands don't look very feminine, Mr O'Higgins."
Mr Christie agreed with Mr O'Higgins that he was in a position to give a "good verbal description" of the person. He also said that he had not been asked by gardaí to attend an identification parade.
Gary Sweeney told Mr Gillane that in 2016 he was a boxer with MGM management and was to take part in his first professional fight on February 6th.
He said he was at the weigh-in when he saw people running and glass breaking.
"I heard people shouting," he said, "I just ran."
"Everyone ran, I ran as well, I didn't know what was going on," Mr Sweeney said.
He said that he saw a "guy in riot gear", in a black uniform. "I didn't see him doing anything, he was just standing there," the witness said.
"Did he have anything with him?" Mr Gillane asked.
"Not sure," said the witness, "I can't say".
The court also heard evidence from Paul Spencer, who said that he was a member of a boxing gym at the time.
He told the court that he went to the Regency that afternoon to support some boxers from his gym.
The room was "fairly packed" and there was a "good atmosphere in the place", the court heard.
Mr Spencer said that he saw the guys from his gym and other boxers, as well as guys associated with the MGM gym, including Daniel Kinahan.
He said he noticed two people coming in, a man and a woman, who "seemed out of place".
The court heard that the woman had a blonde wig and was linking with the other man, who was wearing a cap. The woman was "bockety on her legs and unsteady on her feet", the court was told.
Mr Spencer said that as they were passing, three or four feet away, he realized the blonde was a man dressed up as a woman.
They unlinked and were looking into the crowd, the court heard.
Mr Spencer heard a shout from the other side of the room of "Gun! Gun!"
He said that the men pointed handguns, higher than head-height, over the crowd, and he heard three or four gunshots.
He was "terrified", he said, and pushed himself to pillar for cover.
The court heard that the men started walking toward the crowd while everybody was running and tables were being knocked over.
Mr Spencer saw the man dressed as a woman running out an emergency door. He said he got back to his feet and heard three more gunshots outside the room.
Mr Spencer said that a man walked in and said, "It's okay, the ERU are here".
The witness said he was "relieved" and thought the police had arrived.
The court heard that two men wearing dark helmets and blue police jackets, with scarves over their noses, and carrying "huge guns", walked into the room.
Mr Spencer was "convinced" they were gardaí, the court heard, and people began to stand up.
The court heard that the "two fellas walked calmly into the centre of the room" and people started walking toward them.
They took three or four steps, the witness said, when there were three or four more gunshots which came from one of the men who he had thought was a garda.
He said that he saw one of them "aim the gun and shoot a person". "He had aimed at somebody," the court heard.
Mr Spencer said that people dropped to the ground again and somebody was shouting, "Help me, help me".
Mr Spencer said that his "ears were ringing" and "it was bedlam". He saw an elderly man on the floor and helped him up when he saw people "going berserk again", the court heard.
He saw the man dressed as a woman and the man in the cap running back in the door with their "guns held high".
He said that he heard the man dressed as a woman shouting, in a Dublin accent, "I can't see him, I can't see him, he's not fucking here".
He also noticed the man dressed as a woman and the man in the cap were not as calm as the people dressed as police.
He went to reception, the court heard, looked down and saw a body.
Under cross-examination, Mr Spencer told Justin McQuaid BL that he had given a description to gardaí of the man dressed as a woman but was not asked to attend an identification parade.
Margaret Christie told the court that in February 2016 she was working in the Regency Hotel's accounts department.
She said that she was on her way outside for a cigarette when she saw a man who was shaking and seemed "petrified".
She said that man was between 60 and 70 years old and wearing a flat cap.
The court heard that there was another, younger person, wearing a dirty blonde wig and "linking arms" with the man.
Ms Christie said that the younger person's foot twisted and he went down on his ankle and she saw that he had "jet black hair".
He was clean-shaven, wearing a gold-grey dress and horn-rimmed glasses. Ms Christie said she shouted, "That's a man dressed up as a woman".
She said that she thought the men were "going in to do something funny in the weigh-in room".
She said that she walked behind them, into the Regency Suite, and they were still linked together.
She said that the man dressed as a woman stopped and was looking around and she formed the view he was "expecting somebody to be there".
Ms Christie told Mr O'Higgins he was not asked to attend an identification parade.
The trial resumes on Monday in front of Mr Justice Hunt, sitting with Judge Patricia Ryan and Judge Ann Ryan.
- Digital desk