Kevin Lunney ‘beaten to within an inch of his life’, says PSNI
Abduction of Quinn executive described as ‘savage attack’ that was ‘severe beyond comprehension’
PSNI Spt Clive Beatty: ‘The actual violence of this attack is frightening. It’s not something we’ve experienced before outside of a paramilitary context.’ Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
The Fermanagh businessman Kevin Lunney was abducted and then “beaten to within an inch of his life”, the county’s police chief has said.
Supt Clive Beatty, Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) district commander in Omagh and Fermanagh, told The Irish Times that it was “savage attack” which was “severe beyond comprehension”, and was worse than anything the county had experienced in recent times.
“The actual violence of this attack is frightening,” he said. “It’s not something we’ve experienced before outside of a paramilitary context.”
The 50-year-old father of six was dragged from his car by a masked gang who rammed his vehicle as 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.
He was then dumped at Drumcoughill, Cornafean, in Co Cavan, approximately 35km from where he had been abducted, where he was found by a passer-by 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.
A major cross-border investigation has been launched by the PSNI and An Garda Síochána.
There has previously been a campaign of violence and intimidation against the senior management team now in place to run the companies formerly owned by Mr Quinn.
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 it was “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 currently no indication that Mr Quinn or his family had any involvement in the attack on Mr Lunney.
Mr Beatty said the abduction and beating of Mr Lunney was “on a completely different level to the intimidation, harassment, criminal damage and minor assaults that have happened over the last couple of years.”
He said that while one line of enquiry was that it was linked to the previous incidents, at this point he did not know if they were connected.
“We can’t say for now who it is,” he said, “whether it’s an organised gang, whether it’s local or travelling, we just don’t know.
As far as he was aware, Mr Beatty said, “there has been no demands or explanation or ownership for this attack.
“The only link is that Mr Lunney is the director of QIH, and you would make the assumption it has to be something to do with that particular context,” he said.
Gardaí believe a hardcore and violent group, vehemently opposed to the Quinn companies being run by new management and the manner in which the companies were being run, is behind the campaign of violence.
“We have had a series of incidents in the past but this is a very serious escalation in that,” said one source familiar with the abduction and beating of Mr Lunney. “The abduction of a businessman like this and beating him and dumping is a far more serious attack that what we’ve seen.”
“[Whether] this was a one off incident as a warning, or it’s part of a different direction and sustained, we just don’t know,” Mr Beatty said, but he said it was a “worry” that the attack had been so “co-ordinated, sustained and savage”.
In a statement, the chairman of QIH, Adrian Barden, challenged the police on both sides of the Border and said they had failed to arrest anyone in connection with the intimidation of the company’s staff.
“Mr Lunney’s abduction and assault is an outrageous attack on a hard-working father of six children,” he said, “but also on his 830 colleagues at QIH and the wider community in the Cavan-Fermanagh region.
“For several hours last evening, Kevin’s wife, family and very many friends were left to contemplate the worst.
“Like many of his colleagues, I am frustrated and angry that more has not been done to protect Kevin who will require some considerable time to recover from the very severe injuries sustained in this brutal attack.
“We have previously warned of the inevitability of serious injury and loss of life arising from these sustained and increasingly serious criminal attacks. We find it inexplicable that not a single arrest has been made north or south despite dozens of incidents.
“We are now calling for the police authorities North and South to act quickly and decisively to prevent an inevitable loss of life by bringing those responsible to justice.”
In response, Mr Beatty said there were “a number of lines of inquiry still ongoing about crimes that have been committed over the last two years.
“Those are still very much live investigations and I can’t discuss any further on our actions on that.”
He also said there had been an additional police presence around the premises of Quinn Industrial Holdings over the last two days while a board of directors conference was being held.