A MAN has been found guilty of setting up a fake tiger kidnapping in an effort to extort €50,000 from his father.
Liam Ward (32), who has addresses in Drogheda and Mullingar, was convicted of demanding money with menaces from William Ward Snr on Valentine's Day, 2007.
Mullingar Circuit Court heard Liam's partner visited his sister Brenda and father at their business premises in Tallaght that day with photographs of him bound, gagged and with a sawn-off shotgun pointed to his head.
The pictures contained a scrawled note demanding €50,000 that evening or they would next see Liam in a closed casket.
Gardai began investigating a possible tiger kidnapping.
A surveillance team saw Liam in a car coming from Drogheda to Dublin -- where he was to be handed over to his father.
However, the envelope to be handed over in exchange contained only newspaper.
But when gardai saw Liam calmly pay for petrol at a filling station, they believed the kidnapping might be a hoax. Liam was arrested that evening with the car driver.
He said he had lied to gardai in interview because he didn't want to name the people who had forced him to become involved in the incident.
Liam said he had failed the night before to pick up a car containing drugs because he stopped to smoke heroin, and when the car went missing, he was held responsible.
Senior counsel David Goldberg said his client, who had been taking drugs since he was 12, was involved with dangerous people who used him in a ruthless manner. He was in fear for his life and the life of his partner and children, and hadn't run away at the filling station because he had nowhere to go.
However, John Hayden, prosecuting, accused Liam of carefully staging the hoax with his accomplices.
He said Liam, with addresses at Rowan Heights, Drogheda, and Meeting House Lane, Mullingar, felt hard done- by when he discovered he'd been left out of his mother's will.
The court heard Mrs Ward contracted Hepatitis C following an infected blood transfusion after Liam's birth, and was awarded upwards of €500,000 by the subsequent tribunal.
Liam was not included in the will and didn't know about the money until late 2006.
Judge Tony Hunt said he believed the jury had reached the right verdict, showing good sense and proper policy in an unusual case.
All kinds of crime could be licensed by those involved in crime if a defence of duress such as this was given credence, he suggested.
He remanded Liam in custody to next week for sentencing.