Ex-SF councillor filmed waterboarding fraudster, threatened to bury him in Tyrone, court hears
Warning: This report contains details some readers may find distressing
Former Sinn Fein councillor Jonathan Dowdall tied up a convicted fraudster in his garage, "tortured" him with water and threatened to chop him up, feed him to dogs and burn his head at the stake, a Dublin court has heard.
Mr Dowdall (39), believed he was being "duped" over the sale of a motorbike when he researched the man on the internet and came across a series of scamming allegations against him.
He invited the man to dinner, but instead he and his Father Patrick Dowdall (59) imprisoned him in the garage for three hours and tried to force a confession out of him.
The victim, Alexander Hurley, who has prior fraud convictions, pleaded for his life as Jonathan Dowdall covered his face with a cloth and doused his head with water, while Patrick Dowdall threatened to cut his fingers off with a pliers "knuckle by knuckle".
The pair let him go and gardai only discovered what they had done when they searched the Dowdalls’ Dublin home for a separate reason and found a video of the incident.
The Special Criminal Court was shown the "grim and harrowing" footage of Mr Hurley’s interrogation in a sentencing hearing today.
The father and son, both of Navan Road, Dublin 7 both pleaded guilty to falsely imprisoning Alexander Hurley by detaining him without his consent at Navan Road, Dublin 7 on 15 January 2015.
Both men also admitted threatening to kill Mr Hurley at the same place on the same date.
Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, presiding, said the three-judge court wished to reflect before deciding on sentences and adjourned the case to May 19.
Detective Inspector William Hanrahan told the court gardai searched the Dowdalls’ home on March 9, 2016 "in relation to another matter" when they found a USB stick with the videos.
The victim, Mr Hurley was found and interviewed. He told gardai Jonathan Dowdall had put a BMW motorbike up for sale on Donedeal.ie and Mr Hurley contacted him expressing interest in buying it.
Three days later, he went to Dowdall’s home to see the bike. Later, he told Mr Dowdall he was getting loans for the purchase.
He later got a phone call inviting him to dinner on January 15. He went and was greeted by Patrick Dowdall. He was pushed into the garage, backed into a swivel chair and bound with white cable ties around his chest and legs and told he was a "lying b***ard from the sewer".
Patrick Dowdall told him "If you want to get out of here alive you’d better tell Jonathan what he wants".
He was in shock and was told there was no point in screaming as the garage was soundproof. Another unidentified man was present.
He heard someone saying they would "feed him to dogs, chop him up, place him in cellophane bags and store him in the boot of a BMW" if he did not tell the truth.
Jonathan Dowdall, wearing a balaclava, told him to tell the truth, that he was a thief, who had tried to steal a car from a person. Mr Hurley denied this.
Jonathan Dowdall said this was a lie. A girl was at the door with a bucket of water and a tea towel, Mr Hurley’s statement continued.
Jonathan Dowdall placed the towel over his head and poured a full bucket of water over him.
He told gardai he could not breathe, he thought he was being drowned and it went on for four to five minutes. This was done a second time. The cable ties were leaving deep incisions and Jonathan Dowdall told him: “One more twist and you are dead.”
He said he was told he would be fed to Dobermans, chopped up, brought to Tyrone, part of him would be buried in the mountains and his head would be burned at the stake.
He was told he was a “stupid dumb f*** to mess with the head of the IRA” and that Jonathan Dowdall was a friend of Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald. He was told to get out of Dublin.
Mr Hurley was told his family members would be pursued and would be dead within 48 hours of his disappearance. The girl was filming on an iPhone.
Mr Hurley told gardai he did not understand why this was happening. At one stage, Patrick Dowdall pulled out a silver pliers and said he would chop his fingers off, knuckle by knuckle, starting with his little finger.
The ordeal ended at 10.45pm.
The video, in three clips was then shown to the court. In the footage, Mr Hurley could be seen and heard begging “please don’t hurt me” as he was doused with water and repeatedly asked what he was doing with Jonathan Dowdall’s bank details.
He was questioned about “robbing” people and accused of being a “lying, conning scammer” as his head was shaved with an electric razor.
In a victim impact statement, Mr Hurley said what happened to him “can only be described as a brutal and heinous act of crime.”
He said Jonathan Dowdall “proceeded to torture me to the point of death’s door” and that his psychological injuries would never heal.
He still suffered from severe flashbacks and sleepless nights, he said.
The court heard Jonathan Dowdall maintained Mr Hurley had pretended he was a barrister and another man who was selling a motorbike said the same thing.
Michael O’Higgins SC, for Jonathan Dowdall, a father of four said the accused apologised and accepted that his actions had been completely unacceptable, notwithstanding any perceived grievance.
He was a self-employed electrician whose business had done “spectacularly well” and the consequences of what happened had been “catastrophic” for him.
Patrick Dowdall, also a father-of-four, also apologised unreservedly for what happened, his barrister said.
Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald said: "I welcome the conviction of Jonathan Dowdall in court today. The details of the attack perpetrated by him are deeply shocking. I hope the sentence delivered by the court reflects the seriousness of the offence and the trauma endured by his victim.
"Jonathan Dowdall left Sinn Fein some years ago. He subsequently worked with, and supported, a political opponent of Sinn Féin in the Dublin Central constituency."