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Lunney case vehicle was 'burnt in garda custody', court told

QIH abduction accused’s lawyer says incident ‘apparently accidental’

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Kevin Lunney. Photo: BBC Spotlight/BBC/PA

Kevin Lunney. Photo: BBC Spotlight/BBC/PA

Kevin Lunney. Photo: BBC Spotlight/BBC/PA

A vehicle recovered in the investigation into the alleged abduction of Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) director Kevin Lunney was "burned, apparently accidentally" while in garda custody, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

A lawyer for one of the acc-used men told the non-jury court yesterday they did not know what happened to the vehicle, but would be "grateful" if the gardai and DPP could "tell us all they know".

The court fixed next January 11 as the date for the trial of the four accused.

They are Luke O'Reilly (66), of Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan; Darren Redmond (25), of Caledon Road, East Wall, Dublin; Alan O'Brien (39), of Shelmalier Road, East Wall; and a fourth accused who cannot be named for legal reasons.

They are charged with false imprisonment and assault causing serious harm to Mr Lunney at Drumbrade, Ballinagh, Co Cavan, last September 17.

Mr Lunney was found incap- acitated on a roadway in Co Cavan by a passing tractor driver, having suffered a broken leg and been doused in bleach.

In an interview with the BBC, he alleged that the letters QIH had been carved into his chest with a Stanley knife during the two-and-a-half-hour ordeal.

Michael O'Higgins SC, for the fourth accused, told the court a vehicle in respect of which evidence was gathered was "burned" while in garda custody, "apparently accidentally".

He said he did not have full details, and "the easiest thing to do would be for the State to tell us all they know".

Presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt put it to prosecuting lawyers that the matter seemed to be "of concern".

Cruel

Counsel for the DPP, Gareth Baker, replied that the State was "looking into it".

Separately, Mr Baker said disclosure was ongoing, with up to 50,000 documents being scanned electronically.

Mr Justice Hunt urged the prosecution to conclude disclosure before the end of next month.

Mr O'Brien was remanded in custody to appear again on July 6, when his lawyers will try to have the charges thrown out. The fourth accused was also remanded in custody.

Mr O'Reilly and Mr Redmond were granted High Court bail in April, despite garda objections.

Granting both men bail at the time, Mr Justice Paul Burns said the alleged abduction and assault on Mr Lunney was "vicious, cruel and abhorrent" criminal behaviour".

He said any charges arising out of the incident must be viewed as serious, and any person convicted of the alleged offences could expect to receive a "significant custodial sentence".

However, he said the accused were presumed innocent and there was an entitlement to bail.

Mr Justice Burns said the alleged abduction and assault was preceded by a "series of attacks on QIH", but it was "fully accepted" that neither Mr O'Reilly nor Mr Redmond were suspected of being involved in those incidents.

The judge said the alleged abduction and assault was the "culmination of a campaign of harassment and intimidation" of the QIH directors.

Mr Lunney was allegedly told to resign his directorship and drop "all court cases" involving QIH, the judge said.

His alleged captors told him, Mr Justice Burns said, not to make any statements to gardai "or they will be back".

The judge said the prosecution had fallen short of meeting the standard required to refuse bail. However, it was a "borderline" case, and any bail had to be subject to "stringent conditions".