Kidnap boss escapes as thug jailed for 8 years
The leader of a gang that was involved in the tiger kidnapping of All-Ireland hurling champion Adrian Ronan and his family was not charged despite being arrested.
The Herald can reveal that the criminal who is also the chief suspect for organising around half-a-dozen other tiger kidnappings in Dublin before the 2009 raid in Kilkenny is a career criminal.
He is currently serving a lengthy sentence for firearms offences.
Yesterday, the only person to face the courts in relation to the horrific incident was jailed for eight years for his role in the crime, which happened on November 3, 2009.
Stephen Freeman's role was to pick up and transport money after the raid, but he couldn't drive so he got a taxi driver he knew through gambling to do the job.
The case against Ballymun man Freeman (27) was largely based on him admitting his involvement to this taxi driver.
When passing sentence, Judge Desmond Hogan commented that though he was dealing with an attempted robbery, the offence was part of a tiger kidnapping.
The judge described tiger kidnappings as "universally regarded with public opprobrium" and said Freeman was acting in common design.
He noted that the father-of-one was "enthusiastic" to get involved as he had somebody else do the driving when he couldn't fulfil this role.
While Stephen Freeman, who is related to notorious Clondalkin gangsters Alan and Robert Freeman, spent his first night in prison last night, the 44-year-old arch criminal who gardai believe directed operations will never face justice in relation to it.
Senior sources say that the gang boss identified the Ronan family home and made a number of "reconnaissance trips" to Kilkenny and recruited Freeman in the weeks before the kidnapping.
The gang boss is in prison himself for a lengthy sentence for possession of deadly weapons and ammunition at his north-Dublin home in recent years.
He has a large number of previous convictions, including two for firearms possession - including one which is related to the armed robbery of a bank.
The arch criminal, who is originally from Dublin's north inner city, was very closely linked with Larry Cummins Snr, who died behind bars in 2009 after he was jailed for 15 years for his part in the armed robbery in which publican Charlie Chawke was shot in October 2003.
Meanwhile, Dublin Circuit Court heard that Stephen Freeman was the only person to be prosecuted for the Kilkenny raid though many were arrested.
The Ronans woke up at 5am to find three masked men in their bedroom. The raiders cable-tied Mr Ronan's hands and told him: "You're going to do a job. We're taking your wife, you're going to get us €3m.
They asked Mr Ronan: "Do you want your kids to be without a mother for Christmas?"
They drove Mrs Ronan to a disused weather station outside Kilkenny, where she was tied to a swivel chair at gun point for eight hours.
The raiders gave Mr Ronan, a former Kilkenny hurler who worked in the Bank of Ireland finance sector, a phone and showed him a phone scanner to warn him off contacting gardai.
Mr Ronan received a number of phone calls over the morning about getting money.
The final phone call never came and a short time later gardai rang him to say his wife had been found unharmed.
The court heard that Freeman had run up large gambling debts and the raiders had promised to have them written off if he helped them.