The focus of the Regency Hotel murder trial this week shifted to a tracking device that was placed on Jonathan Dowdall’s 4×4 in the weeks following the shooting.

It emerged in the courtroom that all the tracker records kept at the Garda National Surveillance Unit (NSU) were destroyed a few months before the trial began.

The data, it was said, is “gone forever,” with no ability to recreate shredded records.

The three judges were told the defense concerns about the tracking device related to wiretapped conversations recorded in Northern Ireland that were outside the remit of the Surveillance Act.

NSU members had claimed privilege over the existence of a tracking device used on Dowdall’s car when he was under surveillance.

However, retired Detective Inspector William Hanrahan confirmed on Monday that the device had indeed been placed on the Land Cruiser. He said the Special Investigations Unit (SDU) which deals with terrorism was investigating the movements of IRA firearms and explosives.

The use of the tracker was further investigated by the defense in the following days.

Former NSU chief, retired Det-Supt William Johnson said he authorized the use of a device on Dowdall’s vehicle.

He also filed an application 36 hours later in the District Court for the deployment of an eavesdropping device based on information that the Land Cruiser was being used by Dowdall and members of a criminal gang.

The non-jury court heard intelligence also suggested that Jonathan Dowdall traveled to Derry exactly one month before the killings to meet with a member of the Real IRA and on 18 January 2016 traveled to Derry again, this time with Gerry Hutch.

He also testified that the men met at Dowdall’s home on February 12, allegedly as part of an organized criminal gang related to the murder of David Byrne at the hotel.

Senior barrister Brendan Grehan, who defends Mr Hutch, said he was only informed earlier this week that the logs for the device had been destroyed ‘in the currency’ of the trial. The person who authorized the destruction on Feb. 7, retired Det-Supt Ciaran Hoey, was called to testify Wednesday.

He had made the initial request to deploy the tracking and recording device on the grounds that they could be used to investigate and possibly prevent an arrestable crime.

Over the course of a number of hours, it was revealed how the decision was made to destroy the documents without consulting the investigation team or the prosecution.

Mr. Hoey said he took over from William Johnson and in early 2020 carried out a review of all information held at NSU to ensure it complied with the Surveillance Act 2009.

The destruction order, he said, concerned the approval documents and data emanating from the tracking device.

Mr Hoey said he had asked his administrative staff to destroy all records and he was unaware of any copies. Counsel pointed out that he had a copy in front of him, with the witness saying he did not know where the document came from.

He said he was in compliance with the law, which required him to keep the documents for at least three years, or until they are no longer required in a court proceeding or appeal.

The witness said he didn’t believe they would be used as evidence because he hadn’t been asked, that they weren’t in the evidence book, and because it had never been done before.

The former NSU chief said this was normally done through Garda witnesses and CCTV evidence. It was a point the retired senior detective made several times from the witness stand.

The defense attorney told him that the Gardaí evidence only covered surveillance in this jurisdiction, while the tracker evidence covers movements outside it.

He was then asked a series of questions, including whether the administrative staff he consulted about the destruction were lawyers and whether he had spoken to the investigation team, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) or the investigating officer beforehand. senior (SIO).

“No” was the answer every time.

A clearly frustrated defense attorney said he was “unable to fathom” why not. Mr Hoey said it was his “firm belief” that the data could not be used as evidence.

During cross-examination it also emerged that the Assistant Commissioner for Crime and Security signed the destruction order on 23 March.

A total of 87 orders were signed that day, with information provided on a spreadsheet relating to relevant dates and details of the vehicle being monitored.

The retired detective said he did not inform his superior that the trial was progressing, or that the vehicle was linked to Jonathan Dowdall or Gerry Hutch. Asked whether she should have been warned that the documents might be relevant to the trial, Mr Hoey said it “wouldn’t have made sense for me to warn you of something that you didn’t warn me.”

After a number of hours of cross-examination, the witness stood his ground, stating “I can’t see and still can’t see” how there could be “valuable piece of evidence” on the device.

Assistant Crime and Safety Commissioner Orla McPartlin is expected to be summoned on Monday.

Gerry Hutch (59) denies the murder of David Byrne at the Regency Hotel in Dublin February 5, 2016. Two co-defendants, Jason Bonney and Paul Murphy, are accused of aiding the responsible criminal organization by supplying used cars to drive the attackers away after the shooting.

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