A TRAUMATISED mother and her two sons were abducted from their home and beaten up by a gang, who then dumped them on the side of a road beside their blazing car.
Gardai think the kidnappers are part of a gang running rampage through Co Wicklow that is also being blamed for the murder of criminal Philip O'Toole, whose body was found near Rathdrum last Friday.
Last night gardai were trying to establish a motive for the kidnap. Three masked men forced their way into the family's home in Arklow and ransacked the house.
They attacked the woman and her sons and punched them several times, while demanding money, before bundling them into the family car.
Gardai were alerted shortly after 2am on Wednesday about a car on fire at the roadside in Ballymoney, outside Gorey.
The three victims were found huddled together nearby and were said to be badly shaken. They told gardai that they had been taken from their home, assaulted and robbed.
Last night gardai were investigating links between the kidnappers and those responsible for the murder of Mr O'Toole, who was taken by his abductors earlier last month to Trooperstown Wood, near Rathdrum, then shot in the head.
Members of a crime gang in Co Wicklow are top of the garda suspect list for the murder.
Mr O'Toole had previously survived a gun attack at Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, in August 2011.
Originally from Bray, he had been warned by gardai that his life was in danger. He had been questioned by detectives about the shooting of a man in Finglas in 2010 but not charged.
He was sentenced to six months for possession of cocaine with intent to supply in 2006 and the following year was jailed for possession of a double-barrelled shotgun.