Kevin Lunney issues statement as three men convicted and one found not guilty of his abduction and torture

THREE men have been found guilty of the abduction and torture of Quinn executive Kevin Lunney. uilty verdicts were handed down at the non-jury Special Criminal Court today to Alan O’Brien (40), Darren Redmond (27) and a man who cannot be named, known as YZ (40).

A fourth man, Luke O’Reilly (68), was acquitted. The three convicted men were remanded in custody for sentencing later this month. Mr Lunney (52), a father-of-six and director of Quinn Industrial Holdings, was abducted by a masked gang from outside his Co Fermanagh home on September 17, 2019.

He was bundled into the boot of an Audi and driven to a horsebox in a yard in Co Cavan, where his captors beat and slashed him, broke his leg with a wooden post, carved QIH into his chest with a stanley knife and doused his wounds in bleach.

The Indo Daily: Left for dead – the assault of Kevin Lunney

Listen on Apple Podcasts He was dumped in his boxer shorts on a roadside where he crawled to safety. O’Brien, of Shelmalier Road, and Redmond, from Caledon Road, both in East Wall, Dublin, and YZ were directly involved in Mr Lunney’s abduction and torture.

Mr O’Reilly, from Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan, had been accused of providing material assistance to the operation, but he was found not guilty. All four had pleaded not guilty to falsely imprisoning Mr Lunney and causing him serious harm. Mr Justice Tony Hunt, Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge David McHugh delivered their verdicts today after a nine-week trial that concluded in August.

In a lengthy judgement, Judge Hunt said the court found YZ had been “heavily involved” in the crimes before, during and after their commission. He drove a Renault Kangoo van from Dublin to the scene in Cavan and back, the court found. There was also evidence he drove the abduction car – the Audi – and inflicted most of Mr Lunney’s serious injuries, the judge said.

An e-flow tag associated with the Audi was found in his home when it was searched. Alan O’Brien was seen on CCTV in a “preparatory trip” in the Kangoo to Cavan the day before the abduction. He was seen on CCTV with the co-accused before the van left the following day and the court dismissed a defence suggestion that he did not go in the van but left the area by scaling a wall.

Judge Hunt said this was a “fabrication.” The court found Darren Redmond had gone in the cargo area of the Kangoo on September 17. His DNA was found in the Kangoo, this put him in the back of that van and it would have been “unfortunate indeed” for it to have been transferred there any other way, the judge said.

He went to play “some part in the crime.” While it was likely that he was the third man who travelled in the Audi, it was reasonably possible that he “performed some other function.” However, the court found Redmond could not have been ignorant of the purpose of the journey to Cavan and he at least played an active part in the events in and around Drumbrade yard. In Mr O’Reilly’s case, the court did not accept that the access to his yard in Drumbrade could have taken place without some degree of consent or knowledge on his part.

The judges did not accept that he provided a truthful account of his movements on the day of the abduction. However, Mr O’Reilly was not charged with an offence involving assistance, but with the commission of the principal offence, and for that, the prosecution must show he knew his actions were directed towards this specific offence, Judge Hunt said. There was no evidence of any direct contact between Mr O’Reilly and his three co-accused, and while getting the bleach was “suspicious”, it did not conclusively show the necessary knowledge or intention.

The court was satisfied that he travelled north toward the Drumbrade yard to effect the transfer of the bleach to the abductors who poured it on Mr Lunney’s wounds. “It’s difficult to conclude that the bleach arrived from any other source or by any other route,” Judge Hunt said. However it was more than reasonably possible that he transferred the bleach “speedily without acquiring specific knowledge of what was going on.” A reasonable doubt arose and he was acquitted.

“That is not to be seen as any endorsement of his conduct,” the judge said. The court found that Cyril McGuinness, also known as Dublin Jimmy, who died during the investigation, was the organiser of the abduction, having imported the Kangoo van and bought the Audi, and there “may well have been others involved.” The court rejected a suggestion that Mr Lunney’s DNA was “planted” in the Kangoo van.

Mr O’Reilly and family members broke down in tears as the verdicts were read out. YZ and O’Brien, in the dock, Redmond sitting with his parents in the body of the court, and Mr Lunney, also in the public gallery, did not show any reaction. Earlier, Judge Hunt said Mr Lunney had permanent disfigurement resulting from the injuries that were inflicted on him.

His evidence had been remarkably accurate and the medical evidence was self-explanatory, the judge said. The prosecution had relied on circumstantial evidence, he said, but good circumstantial evidence could be “highly compelling.” Mr Lunney was a “most impressive and careful witness” and the court fully accepted his account of what happened.

He had an “uncanny ability to accurately estimate the passage of time”, even though his captors had removed his watch, the judge said. During the trial, Mr Lunney gave evidence that as he returned to his Derrylin, Co Fermanagh, home from work a BMW first rammed his jeep. Two men in balaclavas ran out.

After a struggle, the father-of-six was dragged out and a third masked man arrived in a black Audi. A knife was held to his throat, he was told “get into that” and was bundled into the boot of the Audi and driven south. After an attempt to escape, he was beaten and taken to a yard where he was forced into a blue horsebox and tortured for 45 minutes.

One of his three captors slashed his face with a stanley knife and cut his clothes from him, causing more lacerations. One broke his leg with a wooden bat and repeatedly told him “you are going to resign” from QIH. Those initials were carved into his chest with the knife “so you remember why you are here.”

During the assault, one of the abductors mentioned a “problem with the DNA” and Mr Lunney’s fingernails were scraped with the knife before two men left the horsebox, returning 15 minutes later with bleach which was poured over and rubbed into his wounds. He was thrown into a van and dumped in his boxer shorts on a roadside in Drumcoghill, Co Cavan. Freezing, he feared he would die but managed to crawl to safety and flag down a passing tractor.

As a cross-border investigation got underway, gardai began searching for where bleach might have been purchased. The next day, gardai checked the shelves at Lynch’s Gala shop in Killydoon, Co Cavan, and saw a bottle of bleach was missing. A man with grey hair was identified on CCTV buying it at 8pm the night before.

The man with grey hair was Luke O’Reilly, a local motor parts trader who owned a yard at nearby Drumbrade. “You’re here because I bought that bottle of bleach,” he told gardai, but insisted he got it for domestic purposes. He handed over his phone and the records included contacts with a Cyril McGuinness.

McGuinness was a well-known gangster and became prime suspect as the organiser of the abduction. A blue horsebox discovered in Mr O’Reilly’s Drumbrade yard was found to contain Mr Lunney’s blood. Meanwhile, YZ’s number was among contacts in McGuinness’s phone records and gardai tracking this man’s movements on CCTV zoned in on two encounters outside an apartment block in Dublin.

One showed YZ meeting Alan O’Brien on September 16, the day before the abduction, when the pair went on a “dry run” to Cavan in a distinctive silver Renault Kangoo van with red lightning bolt stickers. The following day, the two were joined by YZ’s friend Darren Redmond on a repeat journey, taking the three to the abduction. On October 23, the Kangoo, which had been imported from the UK by McGuinness, was left by O’Brien in a Co Meath test centre to be sold on.

It was seized, and DNA from Mr Lunney and Darren Redmond was found inside. Phone records showed McGuinness had been in contact with Mr O’Reilly, YZ and Redmond. Crucially, gardai believed, a 7.52pm call from YZ to McGuinness on the 17th, followed by a call two minutes later from McGuinness to Mr O’Reilly, showed the request for bleach being relayed, just before Mr O’Reilly bought the bleach.

The prosecution case was supported by phone location data for YZ and Redmond’s numbers, and CCTV of the movements of “vehicles of interest” at critical times. At one point, prosecutor Sean Guerin compared YZ’s phone locations and camera sightings of the Kangoo, travelling side by side from Dublin to Cavan to “footprints on a sandy beach.” Gardai found an e-flow tag that had been on the Audi in YZ’s kitchen.

McGuinness died suddenly of a heart attack while police in Derbyshire raided his home there. The others were arrested and questioned. Luke OReilly told gardai he “didn’t know anything about” Mr Lunney being held in his unlocked yard.

Any contacts with McGuinness were for business, as “Dublin Jimmy” had sourced vehicle parts for him and was arranging a truck delivery, he said. In interview, YZ denied any involvement in the crimes, saying “I wasn’t there… I didn’t do anything.” He said he had got the e-flow tag from the Kangoo and was asked to take it out when the van was sold.

O’Brien maintained he never left Dublin on September 17. The trial saw weeks of legal challenges to the admissibility of much of the evidence. It was claimed the phone data and CCTV footage were unlawfully gathered and were in breach of the accused’s privacy and other rights.

The defence lawyers also asked the three judges to rule out the findings of forensic tests in the Kangoo van. They argued that a stain with Mr Lunney’s DNA found by a crime scene examiner had not been spotted in an initial test two days earlier. The defence questioned whether it had been there at all on the earlier date, and suggested it was either deposited by gardai inadvertently or deliberately planted.

The Kangoo was since destroyed in an accidental fire while in garda storage and the defence claimed it was unfair they could not now get their own experts to test it. The challenges were rejected. After hundreds of prosecution witnesses testified, there was only one for the defence – a former GSOC official who confirmed that even before the van was burned, YZ had believed the forensic evidence was planted.

Some of YZ’s actions might have seemed “suspicious”, his barrister Michael O’Higgins conceded in his closing speech, but this did not prove guilt. YZ’s friend, McGuinness was “no saint”, but guilt by association did not exist in law, he said. It was accepted O’Brien went to Cavan in the Kangoo on September 16, his barrister Giollaiosa O Lideaha said, but it could not be inferred from that that he went the next day.

There was no phone evidence linking him to the journey. There was no proof as to how or when Redmond’s DNA got in the Kangoo, which had been left unlocked on the street near his home, barrister Michael Bowman said. He challenged the garda identification of his client on CCTV and said the mobile location data proved only that “a phone was in a vehicle.”

There was no evidence Mr O’Reilly had any knowledge of what was to happen to Mr Lunney, his barrister Michael Lynn SC said. The yard was not locked, there was open access to it and Mr O’Reilly did not regularly visit. It was a complex and purely circumstantial case, Mr Guerin said, but the evidence was “powerful” and “compelling.”

Mr Lunney had suffered an “ordeal of callous brutality and gratuitous violence.” As to why it happened, the prosecution did not have to connect the accused by way of interest or motive to the history of QIH or Mr Lunney personally. “It may well be that the purpose was to serve the ends of other persons,” Mr Guerin said. “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.”

In a statement this evening, Mr Lunney expressed his thanks to investigators. “On behalf of myself and my family I want to thank the gardai, PSNI, DPP and the Justices of the Special Criminal Court for their diligence, time and effort in bringing the investigation and trial to this point,” he said. “I also want to thank all those who supported my family at the time of and since the attack, most especially my colleagues at Mannok, the local community and the countless friends and strangers for their prayers and well wishes.

“I want to also express my sincere gratitude to the wider community for their exceptional level of assistance to the authorities throughout the investigation.” Quinn Industrial Holdings has been renamed Mannok, and the company also issued a statement along with that of Mr Lunney. “Mannok welcomes today’s verdict in respect of those directly involved in the abduction and torture of our colleague Kevin Lunney,” it said.

“These convictions are the result of a detailed joint cross-border investigation by the Garda Siochana and PSNI and we are very grateful to them for their commitment, and to the large number of people in the local community who assisted the authorities.

“We would also like to thank the presiding Judges for their detailed consideration of the case and note today’s commentary in respect of the likely involvement of other parties in this terrible act.

We trust the ongoing investigation into the identity of those who procured this terrible act will yield results and allow Kevin and all of our directors and staff to get on with the job of continuing to run and grow this vital, community-based business free from the threat of violence or intimidation.”