Four Co Tyrone men have pleaded guilty to their involvement in a tiger kidnapping plot to extort a €400,000 ransom from a Republic of Ireland cattle dealer.
Although no details of the 2012 plot were given to Dungannon Crown Court, an earlier hearing was told that the dealer’s son, originally from Co Meath, but living in Essex, was lured to Northern Ireland on the pretext of a lucrative business deal involving a meat boning plant near Ballymena, Co Antrim.
However, shortly after being picked up from the Cairnryan ferry in Larne, he was told he was being taken to Omagh to meet another man, but instead was driven to an isolated farmhouse where he was handed over to a gang of up to eight armed men.
A phone call made to his father initially demanded €400,000 for his release. However, over the next five days the ransom demand was negotiated down to €100,000. His son was eventually released in Drogheda, Co Louth, after the reduced amount was left in a hedge.
The four Tyrone men had been due to go on trial in Dungannon on Monday accused of playing various roles in the tiger kidnapping conspiracy. On Wednesday trial Judge Paul Ramsey QC was told that “matters had been resolved” and that a jury would not be needed to hear the case.
A lawyer for the four, Patrick McCaul, 44, of Slieveard Rise, Matthew McClean, 27, of Glenpark Road, and Robert McClean, 22, of Deverney Park – all Omagh – and Martin Arkinson, 21, of Ballycoleman Estate in Strabane, asked for some of the charges to be put to them.
McCaul and Matthew McClean pleaded to conspiracy to commit blackmail between September 1 and October 7, 2012, and Robert McClean and Arkinson to a newly added charge of assisting offenders by buying food stuffs and telephone top-up cards to help in the blackmail.
A charge against a 25-year-old Omagh woman, Emma McCausland from Glenpark Road, of perverting the course of public justice was allowed to “remain on the books”, as were charges of conspiracy to kidnap and false imprisonment against the four Tyrone men.
They will be sentenced in the new year along with a 59-year-old Scots man, Robert Vevers, of Spango Bridge Cottage, Crawick, in Dumfries. He had pleaded guilty two years ago to the tiger kidnap and false imprisonment conspiracies.
Vevers had allegedly travelled with the victim, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, on the ferry from Scotland and was with him when they were allegedly met by a man in a silver BMW who drove them off.