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From Kevin Lunney's own startling testimony to rows about phone data: The trial's key evidence

The Lunney Abduction trial lasted from June to August at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin.
Dec 20th 2021, 5:37 PM 12,874 0

THE THREE MEN found guilty of the abduction and torture of Quinn Industrial Holdings director, Kevin Lunney have received prison terms of between 18 to 30 years. 

The 30-year custodial sentence was handed down to the the man known as YZ, for his part in the crime. He cannot be named due to a court order.

YZ’s co-accused Alan O’Brien received a 25-year sentence while the youngest of the three accused, Darren Redmond, will serve 18 years with the final three suspended.

In this article we look back on the trial and examine the key moments.

Much of the proceedings had been a technical battle of legal interpretation.

The nature of how gardaí gather evidence, of CCTV use, of surveillance and the ever-controversial gathering of phone records have filled the courtroom debates of lawyers.

From the outset the defence tactic was to pick holes in the legal powers of the gardaí and force the judges to decide the constitutionality of the process.

It removed the devastating impact detailed by the victim out of the proceedings but the trial began in a flurry of the personal trauma of Kevin Lunney.

Lunney (52) had been a director with Quinn Industrial Holdings and the court had heard there was a dispute about the operations of the company.

The four accused, Alan O’Brien (40), of Shelmalier Road, East Wall, Dublin 3; Darren Redmond (27), from Caledon Road, East Wall, Dublin 3; Luke O’Reilly (67), with an address at Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan; and a 40-year-old man who cannot be named by order of the court, all pleaded not guilty to false imprisonment and intentionally causing serious harm to Kevin Lunney at Drumbrade, Ballinagh, Co Cavan on 17 September 2019.

In his address to the three judge Special Criminal Court Mr Justice Tony Hunt had paid tribute to Lunney.

Hunt said he was an “impressive, measured and careful” witness who, in his victim impact statement, had displayed a “humanity lacking in these three individuals”.

“Although Mr Lunney has displayed remarkable courage, stoicism and resilience, he will carry the emotional baggage of these crimes to his dying day,” he added. 

The men were found guilty in November by the three judge panel – the trial had last from June to the end of August.  O’Reilly was acquitted by the the three-judge panel. 

Lunney’s evidence

In startling evidence, early in the trial, Lunney told the three-judge panel, Mr Justice Tony Hunt, Mr Justice Gerard Griffin and Mr Justice David McHugh, about the horrifying moments of his abduction, his torture and eventual crawl to safety.

Lunney told the court that he was bundled into the boot of a car near his home and driven to a container where he was threatened and told to resign from QIH.

In the next few hours he was cut with a Stanley knife, stripped to his underwear, doused in bleach, suffered a broken leg with two blows of a wooden bat, was beaten on the ground, and suffered cuts to his face. One of the attackers aslo scored the letters ‘QIH’ into his chest.

At the moment of abduction he recalled how a car reversed into his vehicle. Two men got out, ran towards him and, following a violent struggle, he was dragged out of his car as a third man held a Stanley blade to his neck.

Lunney said he was told they wanted to talk to him, that they weren’t going to kill him and ordered him to get into the boot of the black car driven by the gang.

“I tried to resist, I tried to fight the individuals and resisted going in but I was simply pushed into the boot and I wasn’t able to resist. As soon as the boot closed I could hear the vehicle taking off at speed,” he said.

Lunney’s efforts to escape weren’t over and he pulled a lever to escape the boot. However the car was travelling too fast – the sole of his shoe ripping as he tried to stand onto the road surface.

When the car stopped the men told him they were going to talk to him but that if he didn’t get back in the car he would be killed.

As the journey began again Lunney heard a phone call in which the driver told someone: “Boss, this man has resisted and we had to hit him.”

At this stage Lunney was bleeding and as they drove at speed down country roads the victim spotted towns – a local dairy and a pub, the trial heard.

When they finally stopped he arrived in a yard, and placed into a blue container which had dung on the floor and he assumed it was a horse box.

Quinn Industrial Holdings

One of the men asked: “Do you know why you’re here? You are here because of Quinn Industrial Holdings.”

Lunney told the court the man told him to resign and said that Lunney had “destroyed the company” or “done damage”.

The court heard that he desperately dragged himself along a country road at Drumcoghill in Co Cavan, shivering from the cold with a broken leg, knife wounds to his chest and blood dripping from multiple facial injuries he suffered.   

It was later that night when his attackers freed him, stripped him to his boxers and left him for dead.

In a desperate struggle to save his own life, lunney said, he was so badly injured that he could only drag himself along the ground on his left arm and left leg – crawling to a light in the distance.

“I was exhausted. I could sense the blood running down my chest and I was conscious my face was bleeding.

“My left arm and left leg were all I could use to push myself along but I decided to push myself towards that window and kept doing that for, I don’t know, a number of minutes,” he said

He said he stopped a couple of times, exhausted, before pushing on again.

When a tractor driver finally stopped, Lunney said he was “violently shaking and shivering”. The court heard that someone else who stopped put a pair of pyjamas over him and when gardai arrived they used various things to cover him.

The court also heard evidence of the good Samaritans who helped him.

Phone records

After that dramatic opening the trial moved on to the evidence the gardaí and their colleagues in the PSNI used to track down the accused.

In the weeks that followed the defence targeted the evidence of the gardaí including the legal rights and wrongs of collecting phone records.

The case of Graeme Dwyer, and his court challenge to the obtaining of phone records used to prove his murder of Elaine O’Hara, was a significant part of the defence arguments.

The court has heard evidence of the procedure used by gardaí to obtain data which has been changed since a challenge in the High Court.

The court heard that gardaí had obtained the records of phone traffic by using warrants to determine the calls made to certain phones by the alleged gang members as Lunney was in their custody.

The data from various phones was obtained by using warrants issued from district courts under the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act.

Michael O’Higgins, SC, representing the unnamed accused, was the defence barrister who spoke in depth about the legal issue.

He pointed out that a ruling of the Supreme Court in January 2019 stated that the power used was inconsistent with European Parliament directives and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

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He explained how the defence was of the belief that this gathering of data was unfair.

After days of legal argument the three judge panel permitted the use of the evidence. 

The judges had mentioned in their judgement: “It is also not necessary to consider the telephone evidence at any great length in the light of the conclusion justified by the two main strands of evidence.”  

Cyril McGuinness

One key aspect of other evidence is the name, of now deceased criminal, Cyril ‘Dublin Jimmy’ McGuinness who was mentioned throughout the trial as the organiser of the alleged kidnapping and torture.  

McGuinness died from a heart attack during a police raid on his home in Derbyshire, UK in November 2019. 

Michael Lynn, senior counsel for O’Reilly, raised the spectre of McGuinness, in his closing submission. He said that his client may have been in fear of retribution from Dublin Jimmy.

O’Reilly was acquitted as the Judges felt there was a reasonable doubt established of O’Reilly’s knowledge that the bleach he purchased was going to be used in the abduction. 

Ultimately his defence was that his client did not know what was going to happen to Lunney and added that this should cause the case to fall. 

And that was the ultimate explanation relied on by the defence barristers – that there was a lack of evidence. They asked the three judge panel to find their clients innocent. 

The judgement spoke at length about the impact and effect on Lunney and his family and the general border area. 

Mr Justice Tony Hunt said that the court wished to “express our admiration for Mr Lunney and the manner in which he composed himself during his ordeal and in giving evidence.” 

The unspoken issue, not answered by the trial, is why Lunney was kidnapped and tortured by a group of men on a cold September night – and that, it appears, will never be answered. 

With reporting from Eoin Reynolds.

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Niall O'Connor


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