herald

Friday 24 November 2017

Shocked silence as court views grim 'waterboarding' footage

The garda raid at the home of the Dowdalls in March last year which led to officers finding the video footage
The garda raid at the home of the Dowdalls in March last year which led to officers finding the video footage

The pale, wide-eyed man was tied to a swivel chair lying on its side on a bare concrete floor.

His masked torturer threw a tea towel over his head and drenched it with a bucket, the water splashing out around him.

"Please don't hurt me," the man gasped, breathless with terror as the chair was hauled back upright for another round of interrogation.

One of the victim's shoes fell off into the pooling water as he kicked feebly at the floor.

This scene, more reminiscent of war torture footage or a horror movie, was actually playing out on screens at the Special Criminal Court, as those who had not known what to expect looked on in shocked silence.

Chamber

The grey room in which the victim was being held was not some military interrogation chamber, but a drab suburban garage on a chilly January night.

The harrowing video was found on a USB stick in Jonathan Dowdall and his father Patrick's home, a year after they decided to force the "truth" from Alexander Hurley.

The man in the balaclava was Jonathan Dowdall, who suspected Mr Hurley was about to "dupe" him in the sale of a motorbike.

He continued to snarl questions at the victim, along with accusations of "conning people out of money".

At first it wasn't clear why Mr Hurley had one patch of closely shaved hair on the front of an otherwise thick head of hair.

But then the electric razor buzzed into life as Dowdall finished the job, shearing the rest of his victim's head as if he were a struggling lamb.

"Nice haircut," Dowdall jeered.

He then went on to inflict another bout of waterboarding on Mr Hurley.

It was unusual to have the footage played to the court given that both accused had pleaded guilty.

But, although there had been a detailed description of what happened that night in Mr Hurley's garda statement, no verbal account could have had the same impact as the video footage.

Video

Both accused, who have been in custody since last year, sat in the dock, mostly looking directly ahead as the video was played.

Jonathan Dowdall frequently held his head down.

A woman in the public gallery wept as the footage was played.

Afterwards, the three judges of the Special Criminal Court did not comment on what they had seen and reserved their decision on sentences.

It was just as well that Mr Hurley, whose victim impact statement was read out by prosecutor Vincent Heneghan, was not in court to relive the ordeal.

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