machete threat | 

Cornelius Price’s gang vowed to shoot kidnap victims if €340k ransom was not paid, court hears

A UK court heard how the alleged victims are said to have been threatened with the loss of fingers and bullets in the head

Cornelius Price

Cornelius Price

Starbucks logo (Stock image)

Dettol. Photo: Reuters© REUTERS

Mark Kavanagh (left)

Court reporterSunday World

An Irish gang threatened to slice the fingers off two men with a machete as they demanded a £300,000 (€340k) ransom, a UK court has heard.

Danny Bridges, 41, Mark Kavanagh, 34, Darren McClean, 37, Quincy Jarron Bramble, 33, and Lisa Marie Finnerty, 39, allegedly conspired to falsely imprison and blackmail the pair in July 2020.

McClean and Bramble are also charged with kidnapping the two men.

Cornelius Price, originally from Gormanstown, Co Meath, is unable to stand trial with his five alleged associates after suffering a brain injury.

Gang boss Price (40) moved to the UK after leaving Ireland following a wave of violence in Drogheda, Co Louth.

Gardai believe Price is a key figure in one of the two gangs involved in the so-called Drogheda feud.

His mob are suspected of involvement in a number of murders – including the hit on enforcer Robbie Lawlor.

Yesterday, the court heard how the alleged victims, who cannot be named, are said to have been threatened with the loss of fingers and bullets in the head if the ransom was not paid.

Mark Kavanagh (left)

Prosecutor Anne Whyte KC told the jury: “The victims were kidnapped without warning on 8th July 2020 in north London.

“Darren McLean and Quincy Bramble were directly involved in and responsible for that kidnapping.

“Each defendant in this case then conspired with each other and with others not present in this court to falsely imprison and to blackmail the victims with a view to extracting cash and or other commodities including drugs from them after they had been kidnapped.”

The victims drove to a flat in Highbury Hill, near Arsenal football stadium, on 8 July 2020 in a hired BMW car.

“Some of the men in the flat were armed. McLean was wearing jogging bottoms, a jacket and a facemask.

"The victim could see a handgun in McLean’s waistband.

“Inside the flat, McLean spoke to the victims.

"Then, without warning, four or five black men ‘stormed’ into the room. They were all armed with knives or bladed weapons,” Ms Whyte said

“The victims were pushed to the floor and told not to move. Mobile phones and wallets were taken from them

“Between them they were carrying over £2,000 in cash. The car keys to the BMW were also taken.”

Cornelius Price

Their hands were bound with parcel tape.

“They were then held against their will at different locations and blackmailed,” Ms Whyte said.

“On occasion, they were threatened with weapons, bound and at times blindfolded.

“Soon after being kidnapped in London, they were moved by car to a place called Smithy Fen, a travellers’ site north of Cambridge. There, they were both held captive.

“Over the days that followed, demands were made for a large sum of money to secure their release.

"The scale of the demands would vary from day to day but at times were as high as over £300,000 (€340k) at one stage.

“Both victims were held captive together at Smithy Fen until 13th July."

On 11 July, the men were threatened with the loss of fingers if they could not pay the money.

Prosecutor Anne Whyte KC said two phones were used to make the demands and arrange the delivery of a ransom on 12 July.

She said a friend of the victims delivered boxes to Starbucks car park in Wolstanton, near Stoke-on-Trent where he gave them to Finnerty.

Starbucks logo (Stock image)

“Having collected those boxes, she drove some distance to Stourport, the home address of Cornelius Price, and the fourth defendant Danny Bridges before returning to her home in the north of England in Rochdale.

“As to the boxes, and what they contained, it is thought likely that they contained a quantity of money and/or drugs.

”The following day Lisa Finnerty on 13 July drove back to the home address near Stourport of Bridges and Cornelius Price and then she drove to London, most probably to drop off the Starbucks boxes.”

On that day the second victim was driven by McLean and Bramble from Smithy Fen to London where he was given money and one of his phones and told to go home to help raise more money to secure his release.

The victim continued to be held captive at Smithy Fen as the blackmail calls continued.

Ms Whyte said: “On 16 July, armed police stopped a yellow Transit van leaving the Smithy Fen site in Cambridgeshire. The first defendant Darren McLean was driving that van.”

Inside the rear compartment, police found one of the victims lying on a mattress.

“Demand phone one was later found in the front cab of the yellow van.

“As police approached the van, McLean discarded the handset and deliberately damaged it, no doubt in an attempt to prevent it being examined.'

Kavanagh, of Manchester, McClean, of Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, Bridges, also of Stourport-on-Severn, Finnerty, of Lancashire, Bramble, of Stepney Green, east London and McClean, of Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, all deny two charges of conspiracy to falsely imprison and two of conspiracy to kidnap, between 7 and 17 July 2020.

McClean and Bramble alone also deny two charges of kidnap on 8 July 8 2020.

McClean pleaded guilty to two charges of driving whilst disqualified in July 2020.

Price, who was living on a caravan site in Stourport, Worcestershire, is too ill to stand trial.

In a recording heard by the court from 12 July, someone likely to be Darren McLean, he said to the friend: “If you f*ck up, I'm going to put their brains all over the road okay.”

“If you f*ck my people around I'm gonna shoot these two dudes in the head.”

The court also heard that one of the victims was washed with Dettol.

He was told to wash himself and was given two buckets.

He was sprayed with a Dettol spray and was given some clothes to change into. He was then blindfolded and placed inside a VW Passat.

This was after the gang had decided to release him to try and sort out the payment of money himself

Later the other victim was also washed with Dettol.

Throughout the ordeal, one of the victims was afraid he would have his finger cut off.

“He feared that he was about to lose a finger," said Ms Whyte.

One of the alleged victims was called racist names.

"On occasion he was called racist names and was threatened with violence on account of his ethnicity.”

Dettol. Photo: Reuters© REUTERS

In a prepared statement, Darren McLean denied the allegations.

He said: “I deny the kidnap of [the alleged victims]. I was made aware from him that he had been robbed at the beginning of July in London.

"I was contacted by a mutual friend and asked if I would be able to help them out.

"I was told to meet them at a flat in London. [One of the victims] knows this address.

"He informed me that he needed to get money urgently due to a drugs debt. I stayed with them for around four days in total.

"Neither of them were held against their will. No demands were ever made for money by myself. [The other victim] had been sleeping in the back of my van.

"This was his choice. He was free to leave at any time. The door was never locked. I own a black watch.

"I was wearing this watch during my time with them. The watch recorded everything that went on whilst there were in my presence.

"The watch can be located in the flat where we initially met in London. [The first victim] knows where the watch is.”

Ms Whyte said at the end of her opening speech: “The notion that [the alleged victims] were essentially in voluntary hiding or had staged their own kidnapping is fanciful as the use of the demand phones and other evidence in this case will demonstrate.

"Each of these defendants played a separate but related role and each was party to an agreement, after they were kidnapped, to detain both and then one of them until ransom demands were met.

"At the conclusion of this case, you will be sure of their guilt.”

The trial continues.

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