‘Petrified; I thought I was being drowned’

A former Sinn Féin councillor waterboarded and threatened to kill a man who he believed was trying to defraud him, the Special Criminal Court heard yesterday.

‘Petrified; I thought I was being drowned’

Footage recorded on a mobile phone was shown to the court of Jonathan Dowdall, aged 38, wearing a balaclava and holding a tea-towel to the man’s face before pouring water over his head.

The court heard that Dowdall believed the victim, Alexander Hurley, was pretending to be a barrister and that he was seeking Dowdall’s bank details in order to defraud him.

The two men had met after Dowdall advertised a motorbike for sale on Donedeal.ie.

Dowdall, with an address at Navan Road, Dublin 7, and his father Patrick Dowdall, aged 59, of the same address, had both admitted to falsely imprisoning Mr Hurley by detaining him without his consent at Navan Road, Dublin 7 on January 15, 2015.

Both men had also pleaded guilty to threatening to kill Mr Hurley at the same place on the same date. They had met before about the sale.

Yesterday, Detective Inspector William Hanrahan, of the Special Detective Unit, summarised the facts of the case. He told Vincent Heneghan, prosecuting, that on March 9, 2016, gardaí were searching Jonathan Dowdall’s house on the Navan Road, in relation to a separate matter, when they found a USB flash drive. When gardaí examined the flashdrive, they discovered it contained footage of a man imprisoned in Dowdall’s garage.

The victim, Mr Hurley, was located by gardaí on May 28, and he gave a statement about the incident.

On January 15, 2015, Mr Hurley got a phonecall from Jonathan Dowdall, who invited him to dinner at his house that evening. That night, Mr Hurley went to the house.

Jonathan Dowdall.
Jonathan Dowdall.

He told the gardaí that as soon as he arrived he was pushed into the garage and backed into a swivel-chair by Patrick Dowdall. He was “petrified”, he said.

He was tied to the chair with cable-ties and told by Patrick Dowdall that he was a “lying bastard from the sewer”.

Mr Hurley, the court heard, was left alone in the garage and he heard the Dowdalls discussing what to do with him. They said they would feed him to the dogs, chop him up and store him in a BMW if he didn’t tell the truth. A person appeared at the door with a bucket of water and a tea-towel.

Jonathan Dowdall put the tea-towel over Mr Hurley’s face and poured a full bucket of water over his head, the court heard.

“I thought I was being drowned,” Mr Hurley said. “I couldn’t breathe.”

Another bucket of water was poured over his head and he was told he had one more chance to tell the truth.

He was told he was not a barrister, that he was a fraudster, and that he would be chopped up and brought to Tyrone.

The court heard that he was told he was a “stupid dumbfuck to mess with the head of the IRA” and that Jonathan Dowdall was a “good friend of Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald”.

He was told if he contacted gardaí he would be killed.

Mr Hurley told the guards that the Dowdalls were asking him why he had sought Jonathan Dowdall’s bank details and that the father and son were concerned Mr Hurley was trying to defraud them. The entire ordeal, the court heard, lasted for three hours.

Three video clips, recorded on a mobile phone, were shown to the court.

The court heard that neither Jonathan nor Patrick Dowdall have any previous convictions.

Michael O’Higgins, defending Jonathan Dowdall, and Michael Bowman, defending Patrick, told the court that their clients wanted to apologise for the violence and threats inflicted on the injured party.

The court heard that Jonathan Dowdall, a married man with four children, is a qualified electrician who in 2007 went into business himself, securing contracts with Bank of Ireland and G4S, a security company.

The barrister said that after meeting Mr Hurley, his client had searched online and discovered a number of complaints regarding transactions with Mr Hurley. There was a reference to a man who sold a car and was paid by Mr Hurley in a Euro cheque that had bounced.

Mr O’Higgins said that Dowdall was under huge pressure and his business depended on a good credit rating. He wanted to frighten Mr Hurley into not using his bank details.

The court also heard that Mr Hurley’s profile on LinkedIn showed the official logo of the Law Library and stated that he was a barrister since July 2011.

Mr Hurley has two convictions for fraud.

In a victim impact statement, read to the court by Mr Heneghan, Mr Hurley said that it was a “brutal and heinous act of crime” and that his “life has turned into a tower collapsing”.

He said that he has lost his job and his friends and that the “psychological injuries will never heal completely.”

Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, sitting with Judge Sinead Ni Chulachain and Judge James Faughnan, remanded the Dowdalls in custody until May 19, when they will be sentenced.

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