Thursday 15 November 2018

Death of criminal involved in Guinness kidnapping

Michael Cunningham, one of the men who kidnapped Jennifer Guinness
Michael Cunningham, one of the men who kidnapped Jennifer Guinness

Paul Williams

A criminal who was involved in one of the highest profile kidnappings in the history of the State died suddenly yesterday.

Michael Cunningham (65) is understood to have suffered a massive heart attack at his home in Ballyfermot, West Dublin.

In 1986, along with his younger brother John Cunningham, who is nicknamed the 'Colonel', Michael gained notoriety for the kidnapping of Jennifer Guinness whose husband, John, was then the millionaire chairman of the Guinness & Mahon Bank in Dublin.

The Cunninghams were arrested, along with their associate Anthony Kelly, after gardai surrounded a house in Waterloo Road in south Dublin eight days after Mrs Guinness had been abducted at gunpoint in her home in Howth.

The gang, armed with handguns and grenades, claimed to be members of the Republican movement and demanded a ransom of €2.5m for her safe return.

However, a specialist garda unit tracked the kidnappers down to a safe house in up-market Waterloo Road. They gave themselves up after a tense stand-off with armed members of the now-defunct Special Task Force and Central Detective Unit.

Michael Cunningham was jailed for 14 years while his brother John, the mastermind behind the plot, was jailed for 17 years.

Kelly, who died in 2005, also received 14 years.

The brothers who were originally from Ballyfermot, had cut their teeth operating with up-and-coming crime godfathers like Martin 'the General' Cahill, John Gilligan and George 'the Penguin' Mitchell.

They had also been involved in armed robberies in Dublin and in the north of England.

At the time of their arrest in April 1986 the Cunninghams and Kelly were wanted for questioning by police in Leeds in connection with the murder two years earlier of Sergeant John Speed.

The police officer was shot dead while pursuing a gang following a robbery in the city.

Gardai believed that Michael Cunningham continued to be involved in the background of the huge international drug operation being organised by Christy Kinahan.

He also recently became involved in the "debt collection" business run by long-time criminal associate Martin 'The Viper' Foley.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News