A vehicle recovered in the investigation into the alleged abduction of Quinn Industrial Holdings director Kevin Lunney was “burned, apparently accidentally” while in garda custody, the Special Criminal Court has heard.
Lawyers for one of the accused men told the non-jury court on Wednesday that they did not know what happened to the vehicle but that they would be “grateful” if the gardaí and Director of Public Prosecutions could “tell us all they know”.
On Wednesday, the Special Criminal Court fixed January 11, 2021 as the date for the trial of the four accused.
They are: Luke O'Reilly (66), from Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan, Darren Redmond (25), from Caledon Road, East Wall, in Dublin, Alan O’Brien (39), of Shelmalier Road, East Wall and a fourth accused who cannot be named for legal reasons. They are all charged with false imprisonment and assault causing serious harm to Mr Lunney at Drumbrade, Ballinagh, Co Cavan on September 17, 2019.
Mr Lunney was found incapacitated on a roadway in Co Cavan by a passing tractor on the date in question, having suffered a broken leg and been doused in bleach.
In an interview with the BBC last year, Mr Lunney alleged that the letters ‘QIH’ had been carved into his chest with a Stanley knife during the two-and-a-half hour ordeal.
Counsel for the fourth accused, Michael O’Higgins SC, told the court on Wednesday that a vehicle in respect of which evidence was gathered was apparently “burned” while in garda custody, “apparently accidentally”.
Mr O’Higgins said he did not have full details on what happened to the vehicle and “the easiest thing to do would be for the State to tell us all they know”.
Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding at the three-judge court, put it to prosecuting lawyers that the matter seemed to be “of concern”.
Counsel for the DPP, Gareth Baker BL, replied that the State were “looking into it”.
“You’ll have to do more than look into it,” the judge replied.
Separately, Mr Baker said disclosure was ongoing at the moment, with up to 50,000 documents being scanned electronically.
Mr Justice Hunt urged the prosecution to conclude the disclosure process before the end of July.
Mr O’Brien was remanded in custody to appear before the court again on July 6, when his lawyers will try to have the charges thrown out. The fourth accused was also remanded in custody.
Mr O’Reilly and Mr Redmond were granted High Court bail in April, despite garda objections. Granting both men bail at the time, Mr Justice Paul Burns said the alleged abduction and assault on Kevin Lunney was “vicious, cruel and abhorrent” criminal behaviour which “rightly attracted” great public “revulsion and anger”.
He said any charges arising out of the incident must be viewed as serious and any person convicted of the alleged offences could expect to receive a “significant custodial sentence”.
However, he said the accused were presumed innocent and there was an entitlement to bail.
Mr Justice Burns said the alleged abduction and assault on Kevin Lunney was preceded by a “series of attacks on QIH” but it was “fully accepted” that neither Mr O’Reilly nor Mr Redmond were suspected of being involved of those earlier incidents.
The judge said the alleged abduction and assault on Kevin Lunney was the “culmination of a campaign of harassment and intimidation” of the QIH directors. The court was entitled to “contextualise” the alleged abduction and assault on Kevin Lunney, while bearing in mind the presumption of innocence, he added.
He said the alleged abduction and assault of Kevin Lunney itself was “intimidatory”. Mr Lunney was allegedly told to resign his directorship and drop “all court cases” involving QIH, the judge said. His alleged captors told him, the judge said, not to make any statements to gardaí “or they will be back”.
Mr Justice Burns said the prosecution had fallen short of meeting the standard required to refuse bail. However, it was a “borderline” case, the judge said, and any bail had to be subject to “stringent conditions”.