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tortured 'Ordeal of callous brutality’ that left Kevin Lunney with life-altering injuries

During the harrowing ordeal, Mr Lunney's attackers carved 'QIH' into his chest

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Kevin Lunney was abducted, tortured and repeatedly told to resign his position at Quinn Industrial Holdings. Photo: BBC/PA Wire

Kevin Lunney was abducted, tortured and repeatedly told to resign his position at Quinn Industrial Holdings. Photo: BBC/PA Wire

Darren Redmond from Caledon Road, East Wall, Dublin 3, pictured arriving at the Criminal Courts of Justice. Photo: Collins Courts

Darren Redmond from Caledon Road, East Wall, Dublin 3, pictured arriving at the Criminal Courts of Justice. Photo: Collins Courts

Luke O’Reilly, from Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan, who was found not guilty. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Luke O’Reilly, from Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan, who was found not guilty. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The crossroads in Co Cavan where Kevin Lunney flagged down help. He had been savagely beaten, was stripped down to his underwear, and hypothermia was setting in. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM

The crossroads in Co Cavan where Kevin Lunney flagged down help. He had been savagely beaten, was stripped down to his underwear, and hypothermia was setting in. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM

Members of the PSNI gather evidence near a laneway leading to the home of Kevin Lunney in Co Fermanagh. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM

Members of the PSNI gather evidence near a laneway leading to the home of Kevin Lunney in Co Fermanagh. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM

A Garda cordon on the road to Lough Gowna outside of Ballinagh, Co Cavan, close to where Kevin Lunney was viciously assaulted. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

A Garda cordon on the road to Lough Gowna outside of Ballinagh, Co Cavan, close to where Kevin Lunney was viciously assaulted. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Evidence is gathered near Kevin Lunney's Co Fermanagh home in September, 2019. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM

Evidence is gathered near Kevin Lunney's Co Fermanagh home in September, 2019. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM

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Kevin Lunney was abducted, tortured and repeatedly told to resign his position at Quinn Industrial Holdings. Photo: BBC/PA Wire

MUTILATED, covered in blood and semi-naked, the businessman crawled, inch by agonising inch along a lonely country road in a desperate bid to get to safety after being tortured and dumped in a ditch.

His right leg was shattered and he was branded like an animal, with his firm's initials – QIH – carved into his chest by a gang of masked kidnappers as a warning to resign.

Dazed and shivering from hypothermia as night fell, he just managed to save himself by flagging down a passing tractor.

The border region has had its fair share of dark days, but this was not some Troubles-era punishment beating. This was Ireland on September 17, 2019.

The now-infamous attack on Kevin Lunney was the latest escalation in a campaign of intimidation targeting executives at Quinn Industrial Holdings.

But its barbarity was unlike anything seen in recent times.

After a nine-week trial, three men now stand convicted for their part in Mr Lunney's horrifying ordeal. A fourth has been acquitted.

Involved in the abduction and torture were “YZ,” (40), who cannot legally be named, Darren Redmond (27), of Caledon Road, and Alan O’Brien (40), of Shelmalier Road, both in East Wall, Dublin.

They were all found guilty of false imprisonment and causing Mr Lunney (52) serious harm.

Luke O’Reilly (68), from Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan, had been accused of providing logistical support to the operation, allowing his land to be used to imprison Mr Lunney and fetching bleach for the captors.

Finding him not guilty, the court ruled that although he bought the bleach, there was a doubt as to whether he had the intent to commit those specific offences of falsely imprisoning and harming Mr Lunney.

The QIH director's nightmare began less than two and a half hours before he was dumped on that Co Cavan roadside.

He had finished work at his office in Ballyconnell Road, Derrylin, Co Fermanagh as usual around 6.30pm.

It was a dry, bright autumn evening as he made the less than 10-minute drive to his home on nearby Stragowna Road, where he lives with his wife and six children.

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Darren Redmond from Caledon Road, East Wall, Dublin 3, pictured arriving at the Criminal Courts of Justice. Photo: Collins Courts

Darren Redmond from Caledon Road, East Wall, Dublin 3, pictured arriving at the Criminal Courts of Justice. Photo: Collins Courts

Darren Redmond from Caledon Road, East Wall, Dublin 3, pictured arriving at the Criminal Courts of Justice. Photo: Collins Courts

The first sign of anything amiss was when he pulled into the entrance laneway to find a car he didn’t recognise in the path ahead; a light-coloured BMW.

Before he had a chance to react, it reversed at speed and smashed into the front of his Landcruiser.

Stunned, he saw two black-clad assailants in balaclavas get out of the BMW and run towards him.

One was built like him, but slightly taller and the other was slightly slimmer.

One carried in his arms a bunch of flapping cable ties and two milk containers filled with a clear liquid.

After the initial shock, Mr Lunney’s survival instinct quickly kicked in and he locked the car door.

The assailants banged on it before smashing in the side window.

The BMW driver reached in, grabbing for Mr Lunney and the keys in the ignition.

Mr Lunney made his way to the back seat and tried to fight him off, kicking him in the shoulder and head and briefly pushing him back.

When he grabbed the man's balaclava, it moved a little and he glimpsed light brown or blond short hair and stubble.

The attacker retreated and pulled his mask back down before both men restrained him.

Next thing he recalled was standing outside, at the back of the car as they held him and frisked him, throwing his wallet on the ground.

A third man arrived in a black Audi A4.

He was dressed in a dark boiler suit and also masked but of slightly heavier build, slightly taller, and somewhat older than the others. He was holding a Stanley knife to Mr Lunney’s throat.

After slicing his watch off his arm, the Dublin-accented attacker snarled: “Get into that.”

Mr Lunney saw the Audi's open boot and the knifeman told him: “We want to talk to you… we aren’t going to kill you.”

Mr Lunney tried to fight them off but was bundled into the boot and the car sped away.

Even in this desperate situation, he managed to suppress his terror enough to take in as many details as he could from his surroundings, to get a sense of where he was being taken.

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Luke O’Reilly, from Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan, who was found not guilty. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Luke O’Reilly, from Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan, who was found not guilty. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Luke O’Reilly, from Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan, who was found not guilty. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

He deduced that they were approaching the border.

Drawing on every bit of technical knowledge he could muster, he began to look for a way to escape. He managed to pull the carpet from the boot-latch area and lifted the lever mechanism.

It opened. He knew he had just seconds to seize what could be his only chance. First, he waved at a passing tractor and car but nobody saw him.

Then, a shout came from the front: “He’s opened the f***ing boot!”

It was now or never. The only way out was to jump from the speeding Audi.

But when he put a foot to the road, it tore the sole from his shoe and he realised he wouldn’t survive the impact.

One of his captors reached back and grabbed his other foot, the car stopped and he was dragged out and onto the ground.

They surrounded him and again told him they just wanted to talk to him, but this time with the warning: “Get back in. If you don’t, we will kill you.”

The knife was again pressed to his neck and one of the attackers – he believed it was the knifeman but he was not sure – took out a wooden implement and struck him on the side of the face.

They drove on, the back-seat passenger holding Mr Lunney’s hands in the boot.

His face still uncovered at this stage, Mr Lunney could see the man’s black top had an Under Armour logo.

Agitated, the man asked over and over if Mr Lunney had any tracking devices, threatening to kill him if he did.

Noticing Mr Lunney’s alertness to his surroundings, he barked: “Stop looking out.”

The Audi’s driver was on the phone to someone and Mr Lunney heard him say: “Boss, this man has resisted and we had to hit him.”

A loose covering was put over his face and he was again told: “Don’t be looking out.”

Dazed, bleeding and in pain from the beating while being thrown about in the boot as the Audi crossed rougher country roads, Mr Lunney was still able to catch sight of vital clues from underneath the hood, between a gap in the back seat.

He saw the tops of trees, buildings, at one point a "Lakeland Dairies" sign and later what might have been a pub.

Trying not to lose track of time, he judged the length of the journey – 40 to 50 minutes.

Every small detail could be crucial to his survival, and to getting justice if he ever got out of this alive. If.

The awful journey finally came to a halt but Mr Lunney had no idea what was still to come.

“He broke the f***ing lock,” one of his captors complained as Mr Lunney was taken out into an “overgrown place” covered in weeds, with some white buildings just visible from under his hood.

Bleeding and terrified, Mr Lunney tried to size up a rectangular, blue container as he was led inside.

Two and a half metres wide and high by six metres long, windowless and caked with animal dung, it was a horsebox, he realised with growing dread.

For the next 45 agonising minutes, this would be his prison and torture chamber.

“Do you know why you’re here?” the man with the knife asked, pressing the blade to his neck again. “You’re here because of Quinn Industrial Holdings. You’re going to resign.”

He was told he had “destroyed the company”.

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The crossroads in Co Cavan where Kevin Lunney flagged down help. He had been savagely beaten, was stripped down to his underwear, and hypothermia was setting in. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM

The crossroads in Co Cavan where Kevin Lunney flagged down help. He had been savagely beaten, was stripped down to his underwear, and hypothermia was setting in. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM

The crossroads in Co Cavan where Kevin Lunney flagged down help. He had been savagely beaten, was stripped down to his underwear, and hypothermia was setting in. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM

"It was clear I was going to resign or they were going to do something else to me," Mr Lunney would later recall.

"It wasn't a question, it was: you are going to resign."

He was told three other directors must also go, with an implication that they had all “done some damage to the business”.

“And you are going to drop these cases and injunctions north and south,” the knifeman continued.

At the time, QIH had two defamation cases jointly with Mr Lunney and two other directors, in Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Mr Lunney personally had an interim injunction against another individual in Northern Ireland.

The order to resign was repeated aggressively.

“Yes I will, and I will tell the others,” Mr Lunney promised his captors. He pleaded: “Just don't kill me. I’ll do whatever you want."

The 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.”

It was no bluff; Mr Lunney’s daughter did play Gaelic games and he had been with her at an event the previous weekend in Fermanagh.

He was under no illusion that if he did not do what they said, they would come back.

Suddenly, one of the men became preoccupied with the issue of forensics and said “we have a problem with DNA”.

This seemed to have been the driver of the BMW, the back-seat passenger of the Audi who had held Mr Lunney in place and seemed so nervous about tracking devices.

He took the Stanley knife and seized Mr Lunney’s hands.

“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 later recalled.

It was deep enough to 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 recalled.

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

The man said “the eye drops are no good, we need bleach” and his hands were tied with cable ties behind his back while two of the men left.

The remaining captor refused to let him stand for relief from kneeling in the hardened manure.

The other two returned after about 15 minutes with torches and Mr Lunney 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 recalled.

The rest of his clothes were “bunched up” from the cable ties and 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 Mr Lunney's boxer shorts and the one who had driven the Audi said: “No, leave him with his dignity.”

More bleach was poured on the rag, and they rubbed him from head to toe with it.

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

He was given the rag with bleach on it and told to rub himself. He could feel it burn his cuts.

Someone asked: “Have you done his head?” Bleach was then 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”.

Mr Lunney again agreed and the man said “we’ll let you go but we’ll have to rough you up”.

He was pushed down into a seating position. Mr Lunney asked “why?”, but was only told: “We have to.”

“Hold out your leg or we are going to hit your face,” a captor ordered.

The man who had driven the Audi grasped a wooden implement “rougher than a bat” that looked like a fencepost.

The agony and terror suffered by Mr Lunney were clear in his account of the ordeal, despite his often understated and matter-of-fact turns of phrase.

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

“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?’” he said.

Mr Lunney shouted "yes" in pain, but one of the men 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 dropped the implement, shone a light in his face and said “we 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.

“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 man struck him “as hard as it seemed to me he could” up to 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 took the Stanley knife and said: “We will mark you, so that you will remember why you are here.”

“He quickly scored Q.I.H downwards from my chest,” Mr Lunney said. The man said the letters “QIH” as he did it “so you remember why you are here and that you will resign”.

He was then told he would be let go and, after a 40-minute ordeal, they half-carried him from the horsebox as he hobbled.

He was pushed into the cargo area of what looked like a transit van.

One of the men got in the back and the other two were in the front.

The man who he believed had inflicted his injuries was driving. He again said that they were letting him go and "you're resigning now”.

He heard the driver say to the passenger: “No, I take his word for it. He’s going to resign.”

“If we hear that you have talked to the guards about a gang of Dubs, we will be back,” he was warned.

After about 20 minutes, the van stopped and he was pushed to the side door before falling out onto the roadside.

They threatened they would kill him if he looked at them.

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Members of the PSNI gather evidence near a laneway leading to the home of Kevin Lunney in Co Fermanagh. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM

Members of the PSNI gather evidence near a laneway leading to the home of Kevin Lunney in Co Fermanagh. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM

Members of the PSNI gather evidence near a laneway leading to the home of Kevin Lunney in Co Fermanagh. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM

One of them pushed his head toward the ditch and he was ordered to keep facing that way before the hood was pulled off his face and they drove off.

It was dark and when Mr Lunney's eyes focused, he could see that he was on a narrow, country road.

Although there were no houses, he was less than 100 metres from a junction with a larger road.

But it was a cold night, he was in his boxer shorts, freezing, in pain and unable to walk.

Summoning all his remaining strength, he began a laborious crawl towards the junction, dragging himself inch by inch along the road with his left arm and left leg.

He saw a car and shouted and waved at it but it kept driving and he willed himself on, shivering violently as hypothermia set in.

Reaching the junction, he made it into the middle of the road, but realised it was unsafe and returned to the verge.

He spotted a light from a window but, to his dismay, saw it was further away than the distance he had already crawled.

"I was exhausted," he said.

"I could sense the blood running down my chest. I was conscious my face was bleeding. My left arm and left leg was all I could use to push myself along but I decided to push myself towards that window."

He had crawled 30 to 40 metres when he heard a tractor. He saw lights coming, began waving and to his relief, it pulled up alongside him.

The driver, Aaron Brady was on his way from work in a nearby field when he saw Mr Lunney, covered in blood, lying in the ditch in only his boxer shorts.

He turned off the engine to hear what the wounded man was calling out.

“I’ve been attacked, call the guards,” he croaked.

Mr Brady got out and Mr Lunney asked him to ring a number – the PSNI. Mr Brady also called his mother who came to help.

Another passing driver, Celine Duignan, stopped when she saw the tractor.

When told who the victim was, she recognised Mr Lunney as she herself had worked in Quinn Direct.

When Mr Lunney lifted his head, she saw he had been beaten up and dumped there.

There was a lot of blood coming from his face and she could see from the position of his leg that it was broken. There were cuts all over his body.

Ms Duignan called the gardaí and said “a man had been beaten up, it’s Kevin Lunney and he was involved in the Quinn dispute”.

She helped him, covering him with pyjamas she had in the car and she gave him “a drop of 7-Up”.

An ambulance arrived and took him to Cavan General Hospital. He was later transferred to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.

Mr Lunney, who described his pain to medics as “very severe, 10 out of 10”, was treated for hypothermia and multiple slash wounds to his face and body, requiring 24 stitches.

He had surgery to insert a pin into his broken right shin.

As a massive cross-border investigation got under way, it might have seemed at first that there was little to go on.

Three men. No faces. Some general height and build detail. A Dublin accent. A blue horsebox in an "overgrown" place.

But Mr Lunney’s extraordinary presence of mind throughout the kidnapping gave detectives some valuable information.

His glimpses out of the Audi suggested he had been brought south across the border – there was a Lakeland Dairies in Killeshandra, Co Cavan.

This and his time frame guesses gave gardaí geographical pointers to focus their search.

Listening to his story that night, gardaí seized on the apparent fetching of bleach as an early lead.

Two of the attackers had been gone for no more than 15 minutes, which narrowed the trawl for possible purchases.

The next day, one of the shops Garda Patrick Lacken checked out was Lynch’s Gala in Killydoon, Co Cavan.

Noticing a single bottle of bleach was missing from the shelf, he viewed CCTV and saw a grey-haired man buying it at 8pm on the 17th.

Shop assistant Megan McClean remembered the man having a local accent when he came in that evening in work clothes and asked: “Do you sell bleach?”

He seemed to have trouble finding it.

“I said that you mustn’t be used to cleaning. He laughed and he agreed that he wasn’t,” she said.

They had chatted at the counter as he bought it and left.

That ordinary bottle of Domestos would prove to be the unlikely key that would unlock the whole investigation.

The grey-haired man was Luke O’Reilly, a local motor parts trader who lived 6km south of Killydoon, at Mullahoran.

“You’re here because I bought that bottle of bleach,” he told gardaí when they arrived at his home, but he insisted he got it for domestic purposes on a shopping trip for his wife.

The abduction had been “all over the news”, but O’Reilly’s first reaction still struck investigators as odd.

He denied any involvement in “what’s happening around the Quinn companies” and said of Mr Lunney: “I wouldn’t know the man if I met him.”

“I have nothing to hide,” he added, and handed over his phone.

Gardaí seized six bottles of bleach at his home and all but one – the wrong brand – were empty.

Peering in, just visible from behind the containers, officers could make out the top of a blue horsebox.

The yard matched Mr Lunney’s description “exactly” and quickly became a crime scene.

The land, it turned out, belonged to Luke O’Reilly and the horsebox was stained inside with Kevin Lunney’s blood.

Meanwhile, O’Reilly’s phone records included extensive contact with Cyril McGuinness, a well-known gangster with the nickname “Dublin Jimmy”, who detectives came to suspect of masterminding the abduction.

Gardaí began looking at who else McGuinness was in touch with in the lead up to the abduction.

One of his contacts was Dublin man YZ, who had already given gardaí his phone number during a bail hearing the previous year.

Gardaí trawled CCTV to track YZ’s movements around the time of the kidnapping.

He had visited Store Street garda station the day before the abduction, September 16, and footage showed him leaving after 3pm.

Minutes later, YZ was seen arriving in a red Volkswagen outside a Dublin apartment complex, where he met Alan O’Brien.

The pair walked towards the car park and shortly after, at 3.15pm, a distinctive silver Renault Kangoo van with red lightning bolt stickers on the sides and a missing hubcap drove out, its lights flashing the Volkswagen as it left.

From there, the van was tracked as it made the journey to Cavan, where both men were clearly seen on CCTV at Applegreen service station in Virginia at 11.06pm that night, before returning to Dublin.

Footage from the following day showed YZ and O’Brien being joined by YZ’s “good friend” Darren Redmond outside Island Key before they left, just after 1pm, on a repeat journey to Cavan.

Gardaí noticed that O’Brien appeared to be wearing a black Under Armour brand top.

As the Kangoo was tracked on CCTV, the passenger was seen to be wearing an Under Armour top.

Gardaí concluded the first trip to Cavan was a “dry run” and the second was the journey to the abduction.

They found out Cyril McGuinness had imported the Kangoo from the UK three weeks earlier, when it was shipped on a ferry from Holyhead to Dublin.

The Cork-registered Audi A4, suspected of being the car in the abduction of Mr Lunney, was identified on CCTV at key locations in Cavan on the 17th and had also been sourced by McGuinness.

The previous owner advertised it on DoneDeal in August and recalled "Dublin Jimmy" turning up to accompany an unknown buyer at the sale.

McGuinness told the previous owner to record an incorrect date for the transaction and when gardaí checked, they could find nobody by the name given for the buyer.

The prosecution believed McGuinness was the “boss” who coordinated the kidnapping, while YZ, O’Brien and Redmond were the masked abductors and O’Reilly provided “logistical” support.

Their case was supported by location data for YZ and Redmond’s phones on the 17th, and CCTV footage of the movements of “vehicles of interest” – the Kangoo van, the Audi and the BMW.

At one point in the trial, prosecutor Sean Guerin compared YZ’s phone locations and camera sightings of the Kangoo, travelling side by side from Dublin to Cavan, as being like “footprints on a sandy beach".

Call records showed McGuinness had been in contact with O’Reilly, YZ and Redmond.

Of his last four calls the night before the abduction, three were to YZ and one was to O’Reilly as “arrangements were put in place”.

Although no actual call content or messages were available, gardaí believed the records tallied with Mr Lunney's account.

Phone call records and location data supported their theory that YZ had left the horsebox during Mr Lunney’s imprisonment and called McGuinness looking for bleach.

Gardaí believed the timing and locations showed McGuinness phoned O’Reilly to relay the request, and O’Reilly went and bought it, handing it over to YZ on the road.

Records showed a 7.52pm call from YZ to McGuinness followed by a call two minutes later from McGuinness to O’Reilly.

Minutes after that, YZ’s phone location was travelling south on the N55 while Mr O'Reilly, who had just bought the bleach, was travelling north with it on the same road, in the direction of the yard in Drumbrade.

This was within the 15-minute timeframe Mr Lunney described.

Finding the actual “vehicles of interest” was also critical to the investigation.

At first, gardaí only had the stolen BMW 5-series that rammed Mr Lunney’s car, but it had been left burned out at the scene and yielded little evidence.

The Audi that was used to abduct him was never found, and its previous owner could not pick out the unknown buyer in an ID parade that included Alan O’Brien.

There was also no trace of the transit van used to dump Mr Lunney on the roadside.

But on October 23, gardaí made a breakthrough when they intercepted the Kangoo van, just after O’Brien had dropped it off in a Co Meath test yard to be sold on.

Forensic tests found DNA from Mr Lunney in a suspected bloodstain in the Kangoo, on the sliding cargo door as well as from Redmond, on a metal bar behind the driver's seat. Mr Lunney had never been in the van, so detectives guessed his blood was transferred there by Redmond when he got back into it. Crucially, his DNA linked the Kangoo forensically to the crime.

On November 8, gardaí searched YZ, O’Brien and Redmond’s homes. Among the discoveries in YZ’s apartment was a crime scene “forensic casebook” in a bedroom, and on the kitchen counter, an e-flow tag.

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A Garda cordon on the road to Lough Gowna outside of Ballinagh, Co Cavan, close to where Kevin Lunney was viciously assaulted. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

A Garda cordon on the road to Lough Gowna outside of Ballinagh, Co Cavan, close to where Kevin Lunney was viciously assaulted. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

A Garda cordon on the road to Lough Gowna outside of Ballinagh, Co Cavan, close to where Kevin Lunney was viciously assaulted. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras and toll both records showed the tag had been used on the Cork-registered Audi A4 that was used to abduct Mr Lunney.

On the same day, police in Derbyshire raided McGuinness’s home there, but he collapsed and died of a heart attack while they were carrying out the search.

The investigation would have to go on without its prime suspect, but the evidence against the other four was mounting.

Later that month, gardaí arrested and charged them.

In interview, O’Reilly admitted he knew McGuinness but said any phone contact they had at the time was about getting a truck for O’Reilly’s motor parts-selling business.

He said his yard, which was used to store vehicles and trailers, was left open and remembered McGuinness used to drive in “like a crazy bastard” with a husky dog.

O’Reilly told gardaí he “felt bad” and was “shocked” when he found out what happened to Mr Lunney but he “didn’t know anything about” him being held on his land at the time.

McGuinness had got him parts in the UK that were hard to find here but after the abduction, he said, he did not speak to "Dublin Jimmy" again because he was “not good news” and “not a good yoke”.

Mr O'Reilly was shown footage of the Kangoo and said he had never seen it before.

YZ denied any involvement in the abduction during his garda interviews, saying he did not drive the Audi in which Mr Lunney was abducted. He denied beating him with a bat, cutting him with the blade and ordering him to resign.

"I wasn't there... I didn't do anything," he said.

He accepted he was friends with McGuinness and said “it’s not illegal to be friends with people”.

He could not account for Mr Lunney’s DNA being found in the Kangoo.

YZ said he had got the e-flow tag from the Kangoo and that he had been asked to take it out when the van was being sold.

He refused to name names and said the Kangoo belonged to “a friend who is no longer with us”.

He answered “no comment” when asked to account for being seen driving the Kangoo on the 16th, and his presence at Applegreen in Virginia that night.

O’Brien was interviewed and denied having left Dublin on the 17th.

The four accused finally went on trial at the non-jury, three-judge Special Criminal Court in June this year, following delays caused by the pandemic.

Mr Lunney was one of the first witnesses to take the stand, delivering a powerful if restrained account of his kidnap and torture.

Halfway through, Judge Tony Hunt asked if Mr Lunney wished to take a break. He declined and pressed on.

Lead prosecutor Sean Guerin didn’t mince his words.

It was an “ordeal of callous brutality and gratuitous violence”, he said.

What had happened to Mr Lunney was undisputed, but the assembled defence teams tried to block nearly every other piece of evidence from being admitted into the trial.

There were weeks of legal challenges to the admissibility of much of the evidence. It was claimed the phone data and CCTV footage were unlawfully gathered, with deficient warrant information, and were in breach of the accused’s privacy and other rights.

The defence lawyers also asked the judges to rule out the findings of forensic tests carried out in the Kangoo.

They argued that the suspected bloodstain containing Mr Lunney’s DNA found in the van by a crime scene examiner on October 31, 2019, had not been spotted in an initial test two days earlier. The defence questioned whether it had been there at all on the 29th, and suggested it was either inadvertently deposited by gardaí or deliberately planted.

In another unfortunate twist for the prosecution, on February 15, 2020, the Kangoo was destroyed in an accidental fire while in storage. It had been moved from the garda vehicle examination compound in Santry to secure storage at Ted Brennan’s yard in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, where a walkie talkie charger malfunction led to a blaze.

The defence claimed it was unfair they could not now get their own experts to test the van.

The judges rejected the challenges.

Mr Lunney was often in court, smartly dressed and watching attentively from the public gallery, sometimes taking notes on the most technical legal argument in a small black book on his lap. O’Reilly and Redmond also sat on the public benches to follow Covid distancing arrangements, with Alan O’Brien and YZ, who were in custody, side by side in the dock throughout.

None of the four accused gave evidence.

Hundreds of prosecution witnesses were called: gardaí, PSNI and English police officers, technical experts and civilians. But there was only one for the defence – a former GSOC (Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission) official who confirmed that even before the Kangoo was accidentally burned, YZ had believed the forensic evidence in it was planted.

Even when charged, YZ had persisted with his complaint, replying: “Not guilty, you planted evidence in that van…now it’s completely burnt, destroyed by a fire in your custody.”

The prosecution characterised the kidnapping as a "sophisticated, highly organised, serious criminal enterprise” and asked the court to convict the accused based on the phone, CCTV and DNA evidence.

Mr Guerin said in footage of YZ, O’Brien and Redmond on September 17, their general appearance and how they compared to each other could “hardly be better described by a person looking directly at the CCTV than by Mr Lunney”.

CCTV showed “with perfect clarity” YZ and O’Brien travelling in the Kangoo to Cavan on September 16, supported by YZ’s phone location records.

The next day, Redmond was seen walking towards the car park with them before the Kangoo left. YZ’s phone location, along with Redmond’s, were tracked to Cavan. There was no phone data placing O’Brien on the second trip to Cavan but Mr Guerin argued the “striking pattern of movement” was the same as the previous day and no other way for him to have left the car park had been identified.

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Evidence is gathered near Kevin Lunney's Co Fermanagh home in September, 2019. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM

Evidence is gathered near Kevin Lunney's Co Fermanagh home in September, 2019. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM

Evidence is gathered near Kevin Lunney's Co Fermanagh home in September, 2019. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM

O’Brien’s assertion in interview that he never left Dublin that day was “no more than a bare denial” and not a detailed account of where he went, Mr Guerin said.

The prosecutor rejected the idea that the kidnappers could have been trespassing in O’Reilly’s unlocked yard, saying their activities would have been “nearly impossible” without his involvement.

YZ, O'Brien and Redmond were directly connected to the Kangoo van where Mr Lunney’s DNA was found, he said.

This evidence was “utterly incapable of explanation by any innocent circumstances”.

It was a complex and purely circumstantial case, Mr Guerin said, but the evidence was “powerful" and "compelling”.

On the defence’s side, it was left mostly to the final speeches for their lawyers to spell out their cases.

Some of YZ’s actions might have seemed “suspicious”, his barrister Michael O’Higgins conceded, but the evidence fell short of proving guilt. YZ’s friend, McGuinness, was “no saint”, but guilt by association did not exist in law, he said.

Mobile phone cell-site traffic analysis suggested that it was not unusual for YZ to be in or about the border area, Mr O'Higgins said.

He asked the court to consider the fact that his client had left the e-flow tag on his kitchen counter despite the prosecution’s depiction of him as being “forensically aware”.

There must have been other people involved in the kidnapping, yet the prosecution had “simply allocated” lead parts to the people leaving Dublin in the Kangoo van, Mr O’Higgins said.

Mr Lunney described the Audi driver on a phone call saying “boss, this man has resisted”, but there was no record of this call.

A burner phone had been suggested by the prosecution, but this did not explain YZ and McGuinness's apparent "unbelievable sloppiness" in then using their own phones in the supposed calls about the bleach.

Mr O’Higgins also raised the possibility that Mr Lunney’s DNA was planted inside the Kangoo.

He said the technical examination facility where the van was kept was “not secure” as a garda testified he had entered it to remove a surveillance device, but this was not logged anywhere. The absence of any records for the compound was "somewhat surprising”, Judge Hunt had remarked.

It was accepted Alan O’Brien went to Cavan in the Kangoo on September 16, but not on the day of the abduction, his barrister Giollaíosa Ó Lideadha said.

It could not be inferred that just because he went on one day he must have gone on the other, he argued.

He challenged the prosecution’s claim that a passenger, seen on CCTV in the van on the 17th, was wearing the same clothes that O’Brien was seen wearing when he met YZ at the apartment car park earlier.

The prosecution said there was no other way out of the complex other than in the Kangoo, but this had been “proven to be incorrect” and there was a wall that could have been climbed over, he said. It was also possible to have left in another vehicle, or back into the apartments.

Mr Ó Lideadha argued there was a reasonable basis for concluding that Mr Lunney’s DNA was not in the Kangoo when it was first examined on October 29, 2019. The prosecution had to prove the stain was there on this date and they could not prove it, because they did not know who had access to the van while it was in garda storage, he said.

There was no evidence O’Brien had ever been in contact with McGuinness.

Michael Bowman, for Darren Redmond, challenged the identification by gardaí of his client on CCTV on the 17th. He said mobile phone location purporting to show Redmond travelling to Cavan that day had actually shown “nothing other than the presence of a telephone possibly within a vehicle”.

How or when Redmond’s DNA got in the Kangoo had not been proven, Mr Bowman said. The van had been left unlocked on streets near Redmond’s home several times.

A prosecution suggestion that the DNA got there as Redmond hung on to the bar to “make himself comfortable on the journey back to Dublin” on the 17th was not supported by forensic evidence and should be disregarded, he said.

Likewise, there was no evidence for a prosecution claim that Redmond got Mr Lunney’s blood on his hands when pushing him onto the side of the road, he said.

Mr Bowman said the prosecution had “over-reached”, using speculation and innuendo.

Michael Lynn SC said his client, Luke O’Reilly was a family man with his own business, no previous convictions and no propensity to offend in the way alleged.

It had not been shown that Mr O'Reilly had any knowledge of what was to happen to Mr Lunney and no evidence that his yard was used for "extensive preparations" ahead of the abduction.

There was no evidence he had met YZ to give him a bottle of bleach, he said.

His contacts with McGuinness were “business dealings” and at the time, the pair were communicating about importing a truck that Mr O'Reilly had bought from an online auction in the UK.

There was open access to the yard in Drumbrade as the gate was not locked and Mr O'Reilly did not regularly visit it, Mr Lynn said.

O’Reilly had given an accurate account of his movements on the day of the abduction, he said. But the lawyer asked the judges to consider, if they thought he was lying, it may have been out of fear for himself and his family if he said anything to incriminate McGuinness.

Ultimately, despite the sudden death of "Dublin Jimmy", the suspected mastermind of the abduction, the Special Criminal Court found ample evidence to convict three of the remaining four accused. Mr O'Reilly walked free from court today and the others will be sentenced later for their crimes.

Despite today's verdicts, some questions remain unanswered.

The prosecution set out to establish the "who, what, where, when and how" of the case. But as to why the kidnapping happened, Mr Guerin said the prosecution did not have to go into the background or connect the accused by way of “interest or motive” to the history of QIH or Mr Lunney personally.

The prosecution was not concerned with the reason "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”.

He accepted the prosecution did not tell the complete story, but said it did not need to.

It appeared the kidnappers were “acting on behalf of others”, he simply said, and that the abduction was to “serve the ends of” these unnamed other people.

“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,” Mr Guerin said.

Mr Lunney became a familiar face at the Special Criminal Court during the gruelling nine-week trial. He only really needed to be there for a few hours to testify in its first week in June, but he returned day after day to sit in the same room as his tormentors and relive how they had terrorised, battered and disfigured him, as they ordered him, over and over: “You are going to resign.”

More than a month after the abduction, a doctor noted marks remained all over his body, including on his chest, where QIH had been engraved, and on his face where he had grown a beard to hide them.

He was not sleeping well and was “fearful of going out in public places”.

Two years later, Mr Lunney undoubtedly still bears the scars of his ordeal. But he never did resign.

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