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abduction case Kevin Lunney's torture was ordeal of 'callous brutality and gratuitous violence', court hears

Prosecutor Sean Guerin SC said the attack was intended to “terrify and intimidate Mr Lunney and to leave him with injuries which would never allow him to forget the ordeal”

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Businessman Kevin Lunney

Businessman Kevin Lunney

Businessman Kevin Lunney

The kidnapping and torture of businessman Kevin Lunney was an ordeal of “callous brutality and gratuitous violence, inflicted with a distinct sense of purpose”, the Special Criminal Court has been told.

Prosecutor Sean Guerin SC said the attack was intended to “terrify and intimidate Mr Lunney and to leave him with injuries which would never allow him to forget the ordeal”.

He said the abduction was a "sophisticated, highly organised, serious criminal enterprise".

Mr Guerin was delivering his closing speech at the non-jury court today, after a nine-week trial, which had been expected to last up to three months.

Closing speeches by the defence are expected to be delivered in the coming days.

Mr Lunney (52), a Quinn Industrial Holdings director, was bundled into the boot of a car by a masked gang outside his Derrylin, Co Fermanagh home and driven to a yard where his captors held him in a horsebox while attacking him and ordering him to resign from the company.

During a 45-minute assault, his leg was broken with a wooden bat, his face slashed with a stanley knife and his wounds doused in bleach. One of his assailants carved “QIH” into his chest with the knife before he was dumped, stripped to his boxer shorts, on a roadside in Drumcoghill, Co Cavan.

Four men are on trial over Mr Lunney's kidnapping.

Darren Redmond (27), of Caledon Road, Alan O’Brien (40) of Shelmalier Road, both in East Wall, Dublin, and a man who cannot be legally named, known as "YZ" (40), are alleged to have been directly involved in the abduction and attack.

Luke O’Reilly (67), from Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan, is accused of providing “material assistance in the planning and execution of the offences".

They all face the same charges of false imprisonment and causing serious harm to Mr Lunney at Drumbrade, Ballinagh, Co Cavan, on September 17, 2019, which they deny.

This morning, the three-judge court ruled admissible key forensic evidence found in a Renault Kangoo van alleged to have been involved in the kidnapping.

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Among the evidence was Mr Lunney’s DNA found on the sliding cargo door, suggested by the prosecution to have been transferred there by one of the accused.

The van was alleged to have been used by YZ, Mr O’Brien and Mr Redmond to get to and from Cavan on the day of the attack.

The defence teams had challenged this evidence, arguing that conflicting accounts of whether the van was open or locked and who had access to it while it was stored for forensic examination raised issues over the provenance and integrity of the evidence.

The defence also complained that the van had been destroyed in an accidental fire while still in garda custody. They maintained it was unfair they could not get their own experts to test the evidence and suggested it could have been “planted” or deposited there by gardaí.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt today said it was “somewhat surprising” that it was not recorded who had access to the storage facility where the van had been kept, and there was no CCTV. On the destruction of the van, the judge said the process by which the evidence was gathered had been subject to cross-examination.

It had not been established conclusively that the sample that was not seen in an initial examination was not there at the time. Notwithstanding defects and unsatisfactory aspects of the evidence, it remained admissible, he said.

Detective Garda Alan Jones was briefly recalled to answer final questions by Michael O’Higgins SC, for YZ. He said when charged with the offences he said: “Not guilty, you planted evidence in that van…now it’s completely burnt, destroyed by a fire in your custody.”

Mr O’Higgins applied to have the case withdrawn on a legal point over verdict procedures in non-jury trials. His argument, adopted by all the accused, was also rejected by the court.

He then sought to call one witness for the defence - a former GSOC representative. He said YZ was visited in prison on February 6, 2020, by the witness. One of the issues YZ raised was whether evidence was planted in the van. This was prior to the burning of the van, and Mr O’Higgins said the evidence was to rebut any view that this issue “suddenly became more important” after the van was destroyed. The court allowed the evidence despite prosecution objections.

Marke Wolfe, formerly of GSOC told the court when he visited YZ on February 6, 2020, the accused “mentioned that it was his belief that the gardaí were under serious pressure with the investigation and had planted DNA in the van. He mentioned from reading the news that the description of the van had changed”.

Questioned by Mr Guerin, the witness said YZ had mentioned the change had been in colour, “from red to blue or vice versa”.

Mr Guerin then began his closing speech.

He said it was a purely circumstantial case but circumstantial evidence was equally capable of proving guilt. The court could focus on the answers to five questions - what happened, when and where it happened, who did it and how they did it.

The prosecution was not concerned with "why these things were done to Mr Lunney", he said, although there were references in the evidence to his position in the company and “ongoing litigation”.

It was “entirely unnecessary to dwell for a single moment” on the background to the case and the prosecution did not depend on connecting the accused by way of interest or motive to the history of QIH or Mr Lunney personally, Mr Guerin said.

“It appears they were acting on behalf of others,” he said.

He accepted the prosecution evidence did not tell the complete story but said it did not need to. For example, the coinciding arrivals of a BMW and Mr Lunney’s car near his home on the day and the mention by one of his captors of his child being in the GAA suggested observation of Mr Lunney which the prosecution could not show in detail.

The offence had “required an organisational task of considerable sophistication” in terms of planning, Mr Guerin said.

The “who” in the abduction, according to the prosecution were YZ, Mr O’Brien and Mr Redmond, and it was made possible by the essential support provided by Mr O’Reilly.

“This was a sophisticated, highly organised, serious criminal enterprise,” Mr Guerin said.

Mr Lunney had given a remarkable account of what he endured. It was remarkable mostly for what he said happened to him, “which was an ordeal of callous brutality and gratuitous violence, inflicted with calculated ease, almost calmly, with a distinct sense of purpose”, Mr Guerin said.

“It may well be that the purpose was to serve the ends of other persons. There is no doubt what these were - to terrify and intimidate Mr Lunney and to leave him with injuries which would never allow him to forget the ordeal or the purpose it sought to achieve.”

What was also remarkable was Mr Lunney’s ability to tell what happened with “care and considerable precision, to say nothing of his extraordinary poise”.

This left the court with a “compelling and detailed account, capable of being assessed by reference to the evidence”.

Mr Guerin's closing argument is continuing this afternoon before Mr Justice Tony Hunt, Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge David McHugh.

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