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Sunday 25 September 2016

Jennifer Guinness - victim of a notorious 1986 kidnapping that lasted eight days - has died

Published 23/01/2016 | 19:38

File photo: 1986 kidnapping victim Jennifer Guinness pictured after sentence was imposed in the kidnap case at the Central Criminal Court on 18/ 11/ 86 Photo: NPA/ Independent collection
File photo: 1986 kidnapping victim Jennifer Guinness pictured after sentence was imposed in the kidnap case at the Central Criminal Court on 18/ 11/ 86 Photo: NPA/ Independent collection
Michael Cunningham, one of the men who kidnapped Jennifer Guinness

Jennifer Guinness, victim of a notorious 1986 kidnapping that lasted eight days, passed away peacefully earlier today after a long battle with cancer.

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She was predeceased by her husband, merchant banker John Guinness, a member of the Guinness brewing dynasty and chairman of the Guinness Mahon bank, who died two years after the kidnapping in 1988.

She died at home surrounded by her family, son Ian and daughters Gillian and Tania and long term partner Alex Booth.

“She had been sick for a long time. We will remember her as a most loving mother,” her son Ian said.

Jennifer had been an enthusiastic sailor and member of Howth Yacht Club.

“It is with great sadness that the Commodore and Officers of Howth Yacht Club have to inform members of the passing of esteemed member Jennifer Guinness,” a posting on the club website said.

Jennifer made headlines around the world in April 1986 after she was kidnapped by three masked gunmen armed with an Uzi sub-machine gun, who burst into her luxury home in Howth, pistol-whipped her husband and demanded a £2.m ransom from him.

She was held for eight days in five various locations and was forced into the boot of a car and a cardboard box during her ordeal. She was also chained to a tree and a bed and at one point, even handcuffed to one of her captors.

She was eventually rescued by gardai from a house on Waterloo Road in Ballsbridge following an all-night standoff with the kidnappers.

It didn’t take long for her kidnappers to be brought to justice. The following June, John “The Colonel”Cunningham was sentenced to 17 years in prison, alongside his brother Mick Cunningham, who got 14 years.

The notorious brothers, who had strong links with the gang led by Martin “The General” Cahill, were behind a string of armed robberies in the 1970s.

Mick Cunningham, who was released from prison in 1995, died of a heart attack earlier this month.

His brother escaped from the Shelton Abbey Prison in 1995 but he was tracked down to Holland in 2000 where he served four years in prison on drug charges before being extradited to Ireland in 2004 to serve out the rest of his sentence. He was released in 2007 and moved to Spain.

After her kidnap ordeal Jennifer  said that she never gave in to despair during her eight-day ordeal.

"I had no doubt at all, most of the time, that my life was in danger," she said during a news conference, "but I couldn't afford to allow myself to lose hope."

Jennifer was  48 when she  was abducted April 8, 1986 from her Dublin home.

When asked what kept her going during her captivity, Guinness said, "A certain amount of anger, a lot of determination and just a conviction that they weren't going to get to me."

Guinness drew laughter from reporters when she said, "I kept saying, 'You've got the wrong branch of the family. John's a banker, but two million is not our style of life.' "

Investigating gardai  praised her courage. Superintendent Frank Hanlon said she was "a considerable asset toward the ending of this incident through her advice to all parties."

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