Sunday 30 April 2017

How cattle dealer was held hostage in €400,000 ransom bid

The filthy mattresses inside the refrigerator container where Paul Gogan was held for five days Picture: PA
The filthy mattresses inside the refrigerator container where Paul Gogan was held for five days Picture: PA

David Young

Images of a squalid shipping container where a kidnapped cattle dealer was held hostage as a criminal gang demanded a €400,000 ransom have been revealed by police in the North.

Detectives lifted the lid on the investigation that brought five men to justice for their role in the capture of Paul Gogan from Co Meath as prosecutors confirmed they were considering an appeal against the sentences handed down

Mr Gogan (42), who now lives in Essex in the UK, was allegedly threatened with a shotgun and told he would be killed or have his fingers cut off during his five-day ordeal inside a disused refrigerator container in a remote field in Northern Ireland.

Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said the victim, who was held over a disputed debt, endured a "terrifying ordeal".

"He didn't know whether he was going to live, he didn't know whether he was going to die," said the PSNI officer.

Mr Gogan was finally freed at the Border after a reduced ransom of €100,000 was paid by his family - money that has never been recovered.

Images released by the PSNI show the horrendous conditions inside his make-shift cell.

Bound by cable ties, Mr Gogan was held in pitch dark, with no sanitation, surrounded by horse faeces and only dirty mattresses to lie on.

He was given only limited food and water by his captors.

Scottish businessman Robert James Vevers and four men from Co Tyrone all escaped immediate custodial sentences last month after pleading guilty to various offences linked to the October 2012 kidnap.

A balaclava found near the scene Picture: PA
A balaclava found near the scene Picture: PA

Vevers (60), from Dumfries, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to blackmail, conspiracy for false imprisonment and kidnap. He got a suspended sentence of two and half years.

Patrick Noel McCaul (45) from Slieveard Rise, Omagh, and Matthew McClean (28) of Glenpark Road, Omagh, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to blackmail. They were sentenced to two years suspended for three years.

Robert McClean (23) from Deverney Park, also in Omagh, and Martin Arkinson (22) from Ballycolman Estate in Strabane, pleaded guilty to assisting offenders.

They were handed 18-month and 12-month sentences respectively, suspended for three years.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said it was considering referring the sentences to the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal on the grounds of being unduly lenient.

The maximum jail term for kidnap is life, while that for blackmail is 14 years.

Mr Murray, who declined to comment on the sentences, hailed the "tenacity and commitment" of his officers.

The plot unfolded when Vevers asked Mr Gogan to accompany him to Northern Ireland to have a look at a meat factory similar, he claimed, to one he wanted to set up in England. When the pair arrived by ferry Mr Gogan was instead driven to a farmyard near Omagh where he was confronted by a gang of masked men.

Irish Independent

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