Police forces feared abducted businessman would be murdered

Paramilitary-style attack on Quinn executive Kevin Lunney ‘severe beyond comprehension’

The laneway where Quinn Industrial Holdings director Kevin Lunney was abducted is cordoned off by  PSNI officers. Photograph: Ronan McGrade/Pacemaker Press

The laneway where Quinn Industrial Holdings director Kevin Lunney was abducted is cordoned off by PSNI officers. Photograph: Ronan McGrade/Pacemaker Press

 

Garda and PSNI officers feared Kevin Lunney (50) had been taken away to be murdered on Tuesday night, with frantic contacts made between the two police forces to try to find the businessman during his two-hour abduction ordeal.

Mr Lunney is the chief operating officer with Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH), a network of companies once owned by the Fermanagh businessman Seán Quinn.

The company’s senior executives have been targeted with intimidation and violence over the past five years. Mr Lunney was assaulted in a Co Cavan cafe in February, when his nose was broken. Threats were made in May that a “permanent solution” would be found for one executive if certain business decisions were not reversed.

The father of six was abducted on Tuesday evening near his home in Co Fermanagh and found more than two hours later about 35km across the border in Co Cavan having been subjected to a punishment beating.

He was taken to a caravan or container and beaten by a gang of masked men during which his leg was broken. Mr Lunney was beaten with implements, including baseball bats, to the legs, head, upper body and hands.

Sources described the attack as a throwback to the era of Provisional IRA punishment beatings. They added that even in the context of those paramilitary attacks the beating and torture Mr Lunney endured was on the upper end of the scale.

The attack is the latest in a five-year campaign of intimidation and violence directed at the executive team that has been running Quinn Industrial Holdings since the fall of the empire owned by businessman Seán Quinn.

‘Step up’ in violence

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said the attack represented a “step up” in the violence, adding the Garda and PSNI had been conducting a joint investigation from the time the attack was reported to the PSNI.

A statement from QIH expressed frustration that no arrests and no convictions had occurred relating to the violence of recent years, though Mr Harris said a major inquiry was now under way into the latest incident.

“Some of the individuals engaged in this are very careful to ensure that their identities are concealed and the burning of vehicles and destruction of evidence is very evident in this and have made this particularly difficult,” he said.

PSNI Supt Clive Beatty, the district commander in Omagh and Fermanagh, told The Irish Times it was a “savage attack” which was “severe beyond comprehension”, and was worse than anything the county had experienced in recent times. Mr Lunney had been “beaten to within an inch of his life”.

“The actual violence of this attack is frightening,” he said. “It’s not something we’ve experienced before outside of a paramilitary context.”

The victim was dragged from his car by a masked gang who rammed his vehicle as he returned home from work on Tuesday. He was bound and placed in the boot of another car and then driven around the Fermanagh-Cavan border for an hour before he was beaten with a baseball bat.

Found by passerby

He was then dumped at Drumcoughill, Cornafean, in Co Cavan, approximately 35km from where he had been abducted. He was found by a passerby at about 9pm, more than two hours after he was first abducted.

He is being treated at Cavan General Hospital for a broken leg and a suspected broken jaw as well as soft tissue injuries to his torso, body and head.

Last year posters bearing Mr Lunney’s image and the word “traitor” appeared on lampposts in Derrylin.

In a statement, the family of Mr Quinn said they were “absolutely horrified” by the attack, “and angered that our former ownership of those businesses is being associated in any way with such abhorrent acts”.

Police sources said there was no indication that Mr Quinn or his family had any involvement in the attack on Mr Lunney. The Quinn family condemned the attack and the previous campaign of violence.