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TD Intervenes Fresh hunt for Wexford 'kidnap victim' James Hillis following alleged staged ransom photos

It's understood the renewed efforts to locate Mr Hillis have come following the intervention of Wexford TD James Browne

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James Hillis is alleged to have told his ex-partner that chicken blood was used in this image

James Hillis is alleged to have told his ex-partner that chicken blood was used in this image

James Hillis is alleged to have told his ex-partner that chicken blood was used in this image

Fresh efforts are underway to determine the whereabouts of Wexford man James Hillis - 20 months after a court found evidence to suggest images of the 42-year-old being held at gunpoint in Colombia had been staged.

It's understood the renewed efforts to locate Mr Hillis have come following the intervention of Wexford TD and Minister of State at the Department of Justice, James Browne, who has been in contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs on behalf of the missing man's family.

It's further understood An Garda Siochana's elite Special Tactics and Operations Command (STOC) are being kept apprised of developments in the case.

Negotiation specialists with STOC have helped secure the safe return of eight Irish citizens who had been held against their will in foreign countries in the past three years.

There is no information currently to indicate that Hillis is being held against his will abroad.

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Wexford man James Hillis

Wexford man James Hillis

Wexford man James Hillis

 

A court in Columbia previously found evidence to indicate that a photograph of Hillis, being held by paramilitaries with a gun to his head, was 'staged' in a bid to 'pressure' a ransom from people close to him in Ireland.

In March 2020, a judge in Colombia ordered the release of three men arrested and held over the 42-year-old's alleged kidnapping and murder after intercepted phone calls following his alleged abduction were played in court.

In one intercepted call, Mr Hillis is alleged to have told an ex-partner that blood seen on his head and clothes in ransom pictures "was chicken blood" and that it was there "to generate pressure".

The three men before the court charged with Mr Hillis' abduction - Juan Pablo Garcia, Mario Orozco and Julian Marin - had been arrested a week earlier by members of the Colombian military's Gaula investigation unit.

They carried out a dawn raid on a property in Jamundi, near Cali following a four-month investigation that began when Irish diplomats reported Mr Hillis missing to state prosecutors in the South American country in November 2019.

It's understood the last contact James Hillis had with his father Jimmy in Wexford occurred on October 27, 2019.

He had a reservation organised for a hotel where he would spend a few days as "part of the process of his release" the court heard.

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A reservation from last October 28 to November 1 was made at a hotel in Cali and his father's credit card was used.

However, Mr Hillis never arrived at the hotel.

James Hillis' father Jimmy said previously: "The last time I heard from James was October 27, (2019) when he sent me a text message saying something like, 'Don't worry about me, I'm OK'," he said.

"But something happened between the 27th and the next day when he was supposed to go to the hotel.

"I haven't heard from him since that day. All we want is to find out now whether he is alive or dead. I'm waiting every day for a text or phone call from him."

It was found that James Hillis, in addition to talking to his family, contacted a man identified as Dimitri. In one of the calls, he tells Dimitri that he needed the money and to "not tell the family" that he was free.

At the same time, according to reports from the public prosecutor's office, in another call James Hillis told Dimitri he was going to meet "the people of Ecuador", without specifying who it was.

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