Monday 19 March 2018

Bank of Ireland employee whose girlfriend was among three people held hostage during €7.6m Tiger kidnapping sues over alleged 'gross' defamation in Sunday World article

Shane Travers
Shane Travers

Tim Healy

A BANK of Ireland employee whose girlfriend was among three people held hostage during a €7.6m Tiger kidnapping has sued over alleged "gross" defamation in a newspaper article.

The “exclusive” Sunday World article amounted to an “assassination job” on Shane Travers, it is claimed.

It wrongly implied he was involved in, and benefitted from, the largest bank heist in the history of the State at the Bank of Ireland cash centre, College Green, his counsel Paul O’Higgins told the High Court.

The article was headlined "€7.6m Tiger Raid 'had nothing to do with me" while a sub-headline stated: "But Gardai are still convinced kidnap gang had inside info on bank stash", counsel said.

While the words "had nothing to do with me" were in quotes, the Sunday World never contacted Mr Travers before the article was published on January 31, 2010, counsel said.

That publication was within hours of his being released without charge, having been arrested some 48 hours earlier under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act.

It seemed some gardai must have been in touch with the Sunday World concerning that detention, counsel said.

Mr Travers still does not know why he was arrested as he had already told gardai all he knew about the Tiger incident which began on the night of February 26, 2009, counsel said.

During that, his girlfriend at the time, Stephanie Smith, her mother Joan, and a young nephew were kidnapped at gunpoint from her home in Kilteel, Co Kildare, by a masked and armed gang, counsel outlined.

Mr Travers, who was watching TV in the house at the time, was threatened the others would be killed if he did not do as instructed and was forced to drive to the cash centre the following morning, followed by gang members in another car.

Counsel said a terrified Mr Travers, who had been working at the centre for some two years, was given a phone with no credit by the gang which featured photos of the hostages being held at gunpoint, along with photos of other BOI employees, which he showed to other staff in BOI.

It was decided he should obey gang instructions to fill four bags with cash, which totalled some €7.6m, which he was then instructed to leave at Clontarf Road Dart Station where he was told the hostages would be.

Counsel said a person who appeared to be a "junkie" met him there and fled in his car with the phone and money.

There were no hostages at the Dart station and he went to Clontarf Garda Station, where his father was a Garda, and told gardai all he knew. The hostages were later released, the court heard.

Mr Travers was traumatised by these events but the “plain intent” of the “dishonest” article was to suggest he was likely to have been responsible for what happened in “a guilty way”.

The article also featured photos of Mr Travers standing alongside a Ferrari and Bentley in Spain, clearly implying he was “Mr Gangland” associated with major criminals on the Costa del Sol, counsel said.

Those photos originated from his girlfriend's Facebook page and were taken two years earlier in 2008 before the heist during  Mr Travers only ever holiday in Spain.

They were taken during the “cheapest of cheap” holidays to her parents’ Spanish apartment and during a day trip when, “like any 24 year old”, Mr Travers posed beside a Ferrari and Bentley, things he would “likely never have”.

It seemed the photos must have been given to the Sunday World by a Facebook “friend” who was “no friend at all”.

Counsel was opening the action by Mr Travers (31), Ardilaun Park, Portmarnock, Co Dublin, against the Sunday World which denies defamation and denies the article contains the meanings alleged by Mr Travers.

It also denies the publication was false or malicious and pleads the article was true in substance and fact.

The case continues before Mr Justice Colm MacEochaidh and a jury.

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