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kidnap trial Kevin Lunney begged kidnappers to spare his life during violent attack in manure-covered horsebox, court hears

Mr Lunney said his wounds were doused in bleach and his clothes were cut off but one of his assailants said not to remove his boxer shorts to "leave him with his dignity"

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Kevin Lunney (BBC Spotlight/PA)

Kevin Lunney (BBC Spotlight/PA)

Kevin Lunney (BBC Spotlight/PA)

BUSINESSMAN Kevin Lunney has told a court how he pleaded for his life when a gang of masked men abducted and assaulted him, saying to his captors: "I will do whatever you want, just don't kill me."

The Quinn Industrial Holdings executive gave evidence that one of his attackers scored "QIH" onto his chest with a stanley knife during a two-and-a-half ordeal and told him it was "so that you will remember why you are here."

During the violent attack in a manure-covered horsebox, his wounds were doused in bleach and his clothes were cut off but one of his assailants said not to remove his boxer shorts to "leave him with his dignity," before continuing to assault him.

He was dumped in a ditch, covered in blood and shivering violently, and dragged his way with one "usable" arm and leg to get help.

Mr Lunney (52) took the stand today as the first witness in the non-jury Special Criminal Court trial of four men charged over his abduction and torture in 2019.

The father-of-six was bundled into a car outside his Co Fermanagh home and taken to a container where his captors broke his leg, slashed his face, carved his chest with a stanley knife before leaving him on a roadside in Co Cavan.

During the attack, he was ordered to resign from Quinn Industrial Holdings, the court has heard.

Luke O’Reilly (67), from Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan, Darren Redmond (27), of Caledon Road, East Wall, Dublin 3 and Alan O’Brien (40) of Shelmalier Road, East Wall, Dublin 1, all deny false imprisonment and causing serious harm to Mr Lunney at Drumbrade, Ballinagh, Co Cavan, on September 17th, 2019.

Another man, ‘YZ’ (40), who cannot be named for legal reasons, has also pleaded not guilty to the same offences.

Today, Mr Lunney, dressed in a dark suit light blue shirt and grey-patterned tie, made his way from the body of the court to the witness box and was sworn in to begin his evidence before the three judges.

He said he lived five to 10 minutes from work at Derrylin, Co Fermanagh and returned after 6.30pm in his landcruiser. He was driving up the laneway leading to his house when he noticed a large white vehicle he did not recognise.

It was unusual for a strange vehicle to be in the lane and he stopped. The car in front immediately started to reverse at speed and before he could do anything it smashed into the front of his landcruiser.

His vehicle was pushed backwards and he was "quite disorientated." Two men got out of the car, one on either side, both wearing balaclavas and dressed in black or dark clothing. The driver was "running fast towards my vehicle carrying what I thought was two cans of liquid," he said.

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This looked like milk cartons containing a clear liquid and the man had "cable ties flapping around loosely" in his arms. One of the men was "similarly built to myself," maybe slightly taller, and the other was slightly slimmer, he said.

They came to the window, banged on it and he managed to lock the door, but the driver's side window was smashed in. He tried to get his phone to call for help but was unable to do so.

The window on the driver's side was smashed in.

The driver of the white car was trying to get the keys from the ignition and grabbing him. He made his way to the back seat and tried to kick and fight them off. He kicked the man in the shoulder and head a number of times and briefly pushed him back.

He said he grabbed the man's balaclava and it moved a little and he saw “a person with light brown or blond short hair” and stubble.

The man retreated and pulled his mask back down before both men proceeded to try to restrain him. Next thing he recalled was standing at the back of the car as they held him and went over his clothes, throwing his wallet on the ground.

A third man was there at that stage - in a dark boiler suit and also masked but of slightly heavier build, slightly taller, and “somewhat older” than the others, maybe in his mid-40s and “holding a stanley knife to my neck.”

The blade was extended less than an inch and the man sliced Mr Lunney’s watch off his arm and told him: “get into that” as a dark Audi reversed into the driveway with the boot open.

The man said “we want to talk to you” and he thought he said “we are not going to kill you.”

Mr Lunney resisted but was pushed in and the car took off at speed. As he heard the third man talk, it was “quite clear to me that it was a Dublin accent.”

He sensed from his surroundings that he was close to the border.

He was able to pull the carpet from the boot latch area, lifted the lever mechanism and it opened. He heard loud shouting of “he’s opened the effing boot” .

He waved at a passing tractor and another vehicle but they did not seem to see him. He thought about jumping out and put his left foot on the ground to gauge how difficult it would be but the car was going so fast, the sole of his shoe started to rip and he realised it wouldn’t work.

Mr Lunney was still considering that when one of his captors grabbed his other foot from inside the car. The car stopped, he ended up on the ground and they surrounded him and he was told: “we are not going to kill you, we just want to talk to you. Get back in, if you don’t we will kill you.”

The stanley knife was again pressed against his neck and “I was hit quite hard to the left side of my face with what I understood to be a wooden object.”

One of the men held his hands in the boot as they drove on and Mr Lunney, whose face was still uncovered, could see an Under Armour logo on his top.

He was asked “have you got any tracking devices or another phone,” he said he did not and he was told to “stop looking out.”

He heard the driver of the Audi he was in having what he believed was a phone conversation, saying “boss, this man has resisted and we had to hit him.”

The man holding him said: “if you have tracking devices, we are going to kill you.” Mr Lunney’s face was “very very sore” and there was blood running down it, he said. He felt “quite dazed” and uncomfortable in the boot. At that point, material was put loosely over his head and he was told again “don’t be looking out.”

They came to a stop and he heard them say “he broke the effing lock” before he was taken out. He seemed to be in an “overgrown place” and there was a white building nearby. He was led to a rectangular blue container measuring about two and a half metres wide by five to fix metres long and two and a half metres tall. It had a metal floor, it was dark and dirty with “a lot of animal dung on the ground” and he worked out that it was probably a horsebox.

The man with the stanley knife pressed it to his neck and said “do you know why you are here?”

He said he did not and the man told him “you are here because of Quinn Industrial Holdings. You are going to resign.”

“There was a conversation about something along the lines of, ‘you destroyed the company, and you have done damage’. The perception was I had done something to the company,” Mr Lunney told the court.

He was told again he was going to resign and three other directors “were going to resign as well.”

"It was clear I was going to resign or they were going to do something else to me," he said. "It wasn't a question, it was: you are going to resign."

He was also told three other named directors would resign too.

It was repeated more aggressively to him and he replied: "yes, yes" and that he would tell the others.

The man said “and you are going to drop these cases and injunctions north and south,” he continued.

Mr Lunney told the court he was aware the company had two defamation cases jointly with him and two other directors at the time in Northern Ireland and the Republic. Mr Lunney said he personally had an interim injunction against another individual in Northern Ireland.

Prosecutor Sean Guerin asked Mr Lunney if anything else was said about people who worked for QIH.

"There was an implication that I had done something wrong in the business, that I had to resign, that we had done some damage to the business," Mr Lunney said.

"I said a number of times, yes I will, and I will tell the others, just don't kill me," he said. "I was saying look, don't kill me, I will do whatever you want."

The same man told him: “we know all about you, we know about your daughter in the GAA top, we have been watching you for six weeks.”

“The implication was if you don’t do what we say, we will come back,” Mr Lunney told the court.

There was then a conversation where one of the men said “we have a problem with DNA” - the driver of the white car who had held him in the back of the Audi.

“He grabbed my left hand first, he had the stanley knife and he started to scrape my hands which were quite dirty… he started to scrape underneath my fingernails with the top of the stanley knife,” he said.

It was deep enough to occasionally draw blood, and his nails were also cut. The man “spent some time” going around each finger.

“I was concerned at that stage he was going to cut my fingers off, I said ‘don’t cut my fingers off’ and he said no, just give me your hands,” Mr Lunney said.

The man was still dissatisfied and they found a small bottle of eye drops Mr Lunney had and put it on his fingernails, he presumed to get rid of evidence.

The man said “the eye drops are no good, we need bleach” and two of his hands were tied with cable ties behind his back while two of the men left. He was left alone with one of the men, kneeling in hardened manure. At one point he asked could he stand and was told “no.”

The two men returned after about 15 minutes with torches and he was told “give me your hands.” He was pushed on his side and they pulled on his hands and used a “rough type of rag” to rub them. He smelled bleach and felt it burning his cut fingers.

They turned him back over and said “we will have to strip him” before taking off his socks and shoes and cutting his trousers from the bottom up with the knife.

“I could feel it cutting my legs a couple of times, scraping my legs,” he said. The rest of his clothes were “bunched up” from the cable ties it was decided to cut them. He was concerned as the blade went between the cable ties and his arms because it was very tight.

One of the men said they would take off his boxer shorts and the man who had driven the Audi said: “no, leave him with his dignity.”

More bleach was poured on the rag and his body and they started to rub him from head to toe with the rag.

“The cuts on my legs and hands were very sore,” he said.

He was given the rag with bleach on it and told to rub himself. Someone asked “have you done his head” and bleach was squeezed under the face covering. His head was rubbed, covering his face in bleach.

“I was coughing and spluttering, I found it irritating my eyes, I found it difficult to breathe,” he said.

He was pulled to his feet and one of the men made reference again to him resigning from QIH and “dropping the cases and injunctions” and “I said yes.”

“He said, ‘we will let you go but we will have to rough you up’”, Mr Lunney said.

He was pushed down into a seating position and he asked “why” but did not recall an answer other than “we have to.”

The man said “hold out your leg”, he thought he replied no and was told “hold out your leg or we are going to hit your face.”

He did not recall if he held it out or if it was pulled. The man who had driven the Audi was holding some sort of wooden implement “rougher than a bat” that looked like a fencepost.

“He hit very hard, the impact on my right leg was a very hard impact,” he said. It was in the middle of his right shin and was “extremely sore,” he said.

“I think I shouted or roared or yelled or something, it was extremely painful. And the same individual who had hit me said to the other ‘did that snap?’” Mr Lunney said.

The man said no and “then he hit it again.”

“I was conscious the leg was broken immediately,” Mr Lunney said. “The second blow was extremely painful. It was pretty much the same location.”

The man immediately dropped the implement and came up to him and said “I will have to mark you.”

“He pulled the cover to the side, caught my chin, pulled me to the right and made a number of cuts with the stanley knife from my ear to my chin, down and across and did the same to the left,” Mr Lunney said.

“He quickly cut down each side. I could sense blood flowing very quickly and some pain at my ear… but I had no particular sense of how deep they were.”

The cuts were three down and one across on each side, he said.

They would later require 26 stitches, he said.

The man struck him “as hard as it seemed to me he could” between 12 and 20 times, each time saying “you are resigning” and each time, Mr Lunney said “yes”. The man said “all these cases” and Mr Lunney said “yes. He said “and the others” and Mr Lunney replied: “yes.”

After, the man said “we will mark you, so that you will remember why you are here.”

“He quickly scored Q.I.H. downwards from my chest down towards my torso with the stanley knife,” he said. The man said the letters QIH as he did it.

“He said so you remember why you are here and that you will resign,” Mr Lunney said. “He said ‘we are going to let you go now’ and wanted to make sure I was resigning.”

They said they would drop him on the road and half-carried him as he hobbled. He was dragged towards a van. The man who drove the Audi again told him to confirm he was resigning.

They said “you are not going to go to the guards, you are not going to talk to the guards and if you do we will be back,” he said.

They also said “you won’t be telling the guards about a gang of Dubs.”

“If we hear that you have talked to the guards about a gang of Dubs we will be back”, they said, and he believed the implication was they would kill him.

He was left by the side of a road and told he had to keep his head in a ditch and threatened not to look at the van before they pulled off.

He was left in his boxer shorts, cold, in pain and with only one arm and one leg usable, he said.

Looking for help, “shivering very violently”, he started to push himself slowly along the road with his left arm and left leg. He shouted and waved at a vehicle but it drove on and he tried to get to a house he saw with the lights on, but it was “some distance” and he was exhausted.

“I could sense blood running down my chest and I was conscious my face was bleeding,” he said.

“I was getting very fearful that I would not get there and no vehicle would come,” he said.

Mr Lunney was half way there when a tractor passed, he put his hand up to attract it and it pulled in.

The driver seemed “surprised” and asked him what was happening.

“I said I have been attacked, call the guards,” he said.

The trial continues.

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