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Dublin: 5 °C Thursday 14 November, 2019
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'I heard it breaking and I roared': Quinn director Kevin Lunney describes kidnap and torture by border gang

The businessman detailed his traumatic ordeal in a BBC interview last night.

QIH director Kevin Lunney was abducted and tortured in the border region in September
QIH director Kevin Lunney was abducted and tortured in the border region in September
Image: Spotlight/BBC Northern Ireland

QUINN EXECUTIVE KEVIN Lunney has recounted how he was slashed with a knife, doused with bleach and branded by his captors during a horrific ordeal earlier this year.

The Fermanagh businessman’s abduction made headlines after he was discovered on a remote roadside after being dumped in Co Cavan.

He was taken from his car near his home in Derrylin, Co Fermanagh at around 6.40pm on 23 September.

He was savagely assaulted and tortured before being left at the side of the road at Drumcoughill, Cornafean in Co Cavan sometime before 9pm the same night.

Criminals targeting Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) executives are believed to have been behind the attack.

A cross-border police investigation is under way but the perpetrators remain at large.

Speaking publicly for the first time about his abduction to BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight programme, the QIH director said he dragged his injured body across country roads fearing he would die before he could be rescued.

The 50-year-old recalled how he was bundled into a car boot at knifepoint by a gang of three.

“It was a beautiful evening and I was thinking maybe I should cut the lawn… came up the lane as usual, looking forward to seeing the kids, then noticed two-thirds of the way up the lane a white car just ahead,” he said.

“There wouldn’t normally be a strange car on my lane, so I stopped my jeep about 20 yards back thinking they’ll either move off … next thing I was aware of, they had put the car into reverse at high speed towards me and smashed into me.

“I could see two guys jumping out, hit the button [to lock the doors] and tried to get the phone out of the pocket.

“I wasn’t able to get the phone open – probably panicking, I guess – next thing was the two side windows came in, they dragged me out on to the road.

“A third person put a Stanley knife up to my neck, he was saying, ‘Get into that’. I was still resisting, he said, ‘If you don’t get into that we are going to kill you’.”

Attempted escape

Lunney was then forced into the boot of the car, but made an attempt to escape, opening it from inside.

“I went to jump but I hadn’t realised that the third guy inside the car had taken the seats down so he had come into the boot on his belly and had caught my right foot.

“I went to jump and he caught me by the right foot, so I kind of fell back into the boot,” he said.

The businessman said he was secured in the boot again when he overheard one of his captors talking on the phone, addressing someone as “boss”.

“Saying something like, ‘Boss, this man’s resisted and we’ve hit him’, [he] was reporting back to somebody, I don’t know who,” he said.

His captors later placed a hood over his head before leading him into a horsebox, where they told him they wanted him to resign from QIH, which he agreed to before the torture started.

He said:

One of them started with the Stanley knife on each of my fingers… he started to run the Stanley knife under each nail quite hard and deep so each of them were bleeding a bit, deep enough that it was sore and painful.

Bleach poured on body

Lunney said he became tearful as he recalled praying and thinking about whether he would see his wife Bronagh or their six children again.

One of the captors then poured bleach over him.

“That was very, very sore [because of the cuts] then he started with a cloth and started to rub my hands which were tied, rubbed them and rubbed them, really, really hard, and that was agony with the bleach,” he said.

They cut his clothes off with the knife, leaving him with multiple cuts and wearing only his underwear before pouring the bleach over his body:

It was excruciating, the pain of the bleach – I was screaming, I think. Then they pulled me up and somebody said, ‘Have you done his face?’.
Next thing there was a squirt of bleach in my face, into my eyes… there was a lot of fumes, I started to cough and almost passed out.

At this point, his captors repeated their demand for Lunney, as well as the other QIH directors, to resign from the company.

“I said, ‘I’ll tell them to resign’. He said a number of times, ‘We know you, we have been watching you’, at one stage he said, ‘We have been watching you, we have seen you with your little daughter with the GAA top and you are going to do what we say’.

“Then he said, ‘OK we believe you, but if you don’t, we’ll be back, for you and all the family and everybody’s family’.”

Leg broken

Lunney also told the programme that his captors told him they had to “rough him up”:

He says, ‘Hold out your leg’… next thing was he hit it… I think it was a either a baseball bat or a short fence post, and I heard it breaking and I roared. The pain was awful.
He said to the other guy holding the torch, ‘Did that snap?’. He said ‘no’, so he immediately hit it again, same place or close, and it was a hundred times worse the second time.

Lunney’s leg was broken in two places and one of his arms was beaten until it was black before the men made a number of slashes with the knife to both sides of his face and carved the letters ‘QIH’ into his chest.

He has now grown a beard to hide the scars on his face.

“He said, ‘Now we have to mark you as well’, I didn’t know what that meant. He said, ‘Give me your face’, he took the Stanley knife and just went five, six scrapes down each side of the face, so I started to bleed,” Lunney continued.

“He said, ‘Just so you remember’. He put ‘QIH’ on my chest with the Stanley knife.”

Lunney was then dumped on the side of a road and warned not to speak to gardaí.

After his captors drove off, he was left lying on his side, and dragged himself along the road to a junction in hopes of getting help.

I was there for a while and there was no cars and I was really, really worried,” he said.

“I prayed a lot then, I was conscious I was starting to shiver, I was in agony.”

‘Brutally specific’ orders’

Lunney said he had started to drag himself up the road towards a house when he heard a tractor coming and raised the alarm.

His brother Tony told the programme that the businessman was in a bad way when he arrived at hospital, adding that he does not believe he would have survived the cold night had he not been found.

The QIH executive said he believes his captors were acting on a list of “brutally specific” orders:

I think certainly the breaking the leg was on the list. It was, ‘We have to rough you up, we have to mark you’, and I think at the end with the things on my chest, it was, ‘We have to make you remember’.
I felt that I was going to die on the road. I felt I was trying to get to the light in the house, a lot of things went through my mind and I almost gave up.
I gave up a few times and came back again, thought about the kids and thought about Bronagh and surviving.

The attack was the latest in a series targeting the companies and directors that now control the business portfolio that was built up by fallen tycoon Sean Quinn.

An element in the community in the Fermanagh/Cavan border area continues to vent anger at the demise of the Quinn empire.

The Quinn family has condemned and distanced itself from those attacking the new owners.

Gardaí and members of the PSNI are continuing to investigate the attack.

The interview came a number of hours after Garda Commissioner Drew Harris met with directors of QIH to discuss ongoing investigations relating to the threats against them.

Despite patrols and police and garda activity on both sides of the border, fresh threats have been made against QIH directors.

Additional reporting from Stephen McDermott.

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