Tuesday 15 October 2019

Quinn chief Kevin Lunney attack: How drive home from work ended in terror at hands of torture gang

Kevin Lunney survived his horrific ordeal - but he was warned he wouldn't be spared a bullet next time, writes Maeve Sheehan

PSNI forensic officers examine a laneway leading to the home of Kevin Lunney in Kilawley, Co Fermanagh. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM
PSNI forensic officers examine a laneway leading to the home of Kevin Lunney in Kilawley, Co Fermanagh. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM

Liam McCaffrey was still in his running gear, just back home from an early- evening run. It was a glorious evening. The Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) chief executive had left headquarters in Fermanagh just after 5.30pm to enjoy it. He had said goodbye to chief operating officer Kevin Lunney, a long-time friend, who was still there, "hashing over something" with a colleague. So Mr McCaffrey was surprised to see five missed calls on his mobile phone from Mr Lunney's brother Tony. He was about to ring Tony, when he called again.

"He said - and this is a mark of the man and a mark of the Lunneys - he said: 'Liam are you safe? Kevin's missing.' At that time, he didn't know Kevin's car was ablaze. There was a ferocious fire burning in it. He didn't know if Kevin was in the car, or out of it. It was unapproachable. So, I drove out to the site. By the time I got there the fire was out. It was clear then that Kevin was missing."

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Kevin Lunney: QIH executive is recovering in hospital. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Kevin Lunney: QIH executive is recovering in hospital. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

Almost simultaneously, in the neighbouring county of Leitrim, John McCartin, a non-executive director of QIH, was at home with his wife and children when he received an unexpected visit from a garda. "He said: 'I was just sent to see if you were ok.' I said: 'Why would that be, is everything all right? He said: 'Not really, Kevin Lunney's car is on fire and he's missing'," Mr McCartin said.

The next couple of hours passed in a flurry of phone calls and a sense of looming dread. Then, shortly before 9pm, 40km away from Kevin Lunney's house, a young man was driving a tractor along a secluded road in the townland of Drumcoughill, west of Cavan town. The man happened to glance down into the ditch where he saw a hand being raised weakly from a hedgerow.

It was the following morning before Mr Lunney's colleagues would learn the brutality he had endured, in a sustained punishment attack that bore all the hallmarks of the Provisional IRA, minus the final bullet to the head. But his assailants warned that is yet to come.

Mr Lunney, husband to Bronagh and father of six children, has not yet given a formal statement to detectives but they have pieced together from him what happened.

He had left the office and was driving home to Kinawley in Co Fermanagh. It was about 6.40pm, on a narrow country road close to his house, when his car was rammed by two vehicles, to the front and rear. Mr Lunney made to lock his car, police said, but the gang smashed the vehicle's windows. He was hauled out by masked men, bound and forced into the boot of a black Audi saloon. Before leaving, the gang burned out Mr Lunney's car, along with one of its own.

The gang drove around for a while. Gardai believe Mr Lunney was driven back to Cavan, crossing the Border at Swanlinbar. He was taken to a location that was probably close to Cavan town, gardai believe. There a mob of men were waiting with torture implements in an enclosed container or horsebox - Stanley knives, baseball bats, iron bars and other weaponry as well as bleach and cleaning fluid for the forensic clean-up afterwards. Gardai believe that between 12 and 20 men were involved in the operation.

Mr Lunney's brother Tony, QIH's production director. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Mr Lunney's brother Tony, QIH's production director. Photo: Steve Humphreys

According to sources familiar with the investigation, the captors were matter of fact in their manner, chillingly so. Speaking with southern accents, they gave the impression that they were there to deliver a message. They told Mr Lunney what they were going to do to him and why, before they savagely laid into him.

They used phrases such as "you know why you're here" and "you know what you have to do". He would have to resign. They would all have to resign. "We will be back to shoot you if you don't," he was warned. Mr Lunney was stripped of his clothes.

He was beaten all over his body and to his head with a baseball bat. One man took either an iron rod or a wooden pole and smashed it over his leg - and then did so again because he hadn't heard the bone snap. Mr Lunney was slashed several times on the face and around his neck.

But the mutilation didn't stop there. His captors took a Stanley knife to his fingernails, roughly ripping some out, to remove traces of DNA.

Mr Lunney was put into a car again and driven away. He was dumped at the edge of a ditch at a crossroads near Cornafean, Co Cavan, 12km west of Cavan town. There he was doused in bleach that ran down into his open wounds.

"It was a beautiful Tuesday evening, but twilight ended and darkness came on in the countryside. He could see a glimmer of light in a house, he knew in his heart that he would not make it. He was bleeding, practically naked, in and out of consciousness," Fr Gerry Comiskey, a parish priest who was at his bedside, later told the Sunday Independent.

"But for a man passing on a tractor, he was up on a height and could see down into the hedge. He [Kevin] raised his hand and he saw him."

Mr Lunney, his brother Tony, who is QIH's production director, Liam McCaffrey, John McCartin and chief financial officer Dara O'Reilly have all been living under threat for the past five years. The business has been fire-bombed. They have been defamed, slandered, threatened, targeted in cowardly and insidious online campaigns, subjected to arson attacks, verbally and physically assaulted.

QIH staff marching in a show of support for the company's chief operating officer. Photo: Steve Humphreys
QIH staff marching in a show of support for the company's chief operating officer. Photo: Steve Humphreys

The brutality and intensity of the attack on Kevin Lunney marked an alarming escalation in the violence. It sparked political and public outrage, bringing together politicians of all hues and from both sides of the Border, and forced a high-level joint response from the PSNI and An Garda Siochana. It is the kind of reaction that the five QIH directors may have wished had come sooner. The company has recorded more than 70 incidents of intimidation and criminal damage in the past eight years.

Alan Dukes, the former chairman of Anglo Irish Bank, yesterday disclosed threats dating back to 2011 when the bank took control of Quinn businesses. The attack on Mr Lunney coincided with a board meeting with American investors that was due to sign off on a new round of investments at the company.

"The critical thing is there is a pattern here - this has gone on for eight years", said Mr McCaffrey, in his office at QIH, ahead of a march of almost 1,000 people in solidarity with Mr Lunney, which was organised by the company's 830 staff. "They were paid criminals carrying out instructions to probably a significant level of detail, and I'll not go into this any further."

Fellow directors of Quinn Industrial Holdings Liam McCaffrey and John McCartin. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Fellow directors of Quinn Industrial Holdings Liam McCaffrey and John McCartin. Photo: Steve Humphreys

QIH is a network of companies once owned by Sean Quinn and, though separated by a border, the imprint of his empire is branded into the landscape of Ballyconnell in Co Cavan and Derrylin in Fermanagh. Mr Quinn was legendary for having built his business from a gravelly field and establishing an empire that straddled the Border during the height of the Troubles and extended globally to Russia, India and across Europe. He is now legendary for having lost it spectacularly during the crash. He has been trying to get it back ever since, writing to the US investors in his old business as recently as May offering his services.

Mr Quinn's route back to his former empire came in 2014 when John McCartin, then a Fine Gael councillor, and Mr Quinn's former management team, Liam McCaffrey, Kevin Lunney and Dara O'Reilly, persuaded US investors to buy some of the Quinn businesses, with the original management team back in charge. Mr Quinn came back as a €300,000 consultant but it didn't work out. He announced his departure by mutual consent but later said he was "sacked".

When he first went bust, Mr Quinn received enormous local support. Somewhere along the line, a misguided band of anonymous trolls have orchestrated vicious and unrelenting persecution of the current directors and management team.

Mr McCartin, who has personally received five threats, gave an example of how insidious they are. On one occasion, a man he knows said to him: "Did you hear Liam McCaffrey is leaving?"

"I said 'no, I didn't know that. Jesus, I thought I would be the first to hear that'."

"He will be leaving feet first or head-first before Christmas'," Mr McCartin said he was told."Nonsense", said Mr McCartin. "I said: 'That's a threat though, and you are expecting me to deliver that threat for you and I won't be relaying that threat for you but I will be telling the guards, immediately, after I leave here.'"

"'Ah, I'm just telling you for your own good, so you know it'," the man replied. On a second occasion, Mr McCartin was told that "people would be saying terrible things about him, to destroy me, and things would be said about my father that would destroy him". He was verbally abused in Ballinamore, by a man roaring at him in the street to "give Quinn back his company".

Over the years, there have been bullets through the post; a pig's head dumped on the doorstep. Last autumn, Tony Lunney's tyre factory was set on fire, then Dara O'Reilly's car was burnt out outside his home, before Tony's daughter's car was torched. Kevin Lunney and Mr O'Reilly were assaulted at a restaurant in February. There was nothing further until May, when an anonymous letter posted to QIH's headquarters named five directors and promised to find a "permanent solution" for at least one of them if the sale of a wind farm went ahead. Mr McCartin said other than ringing them to see that they had received the letter, he had no further follow-up with the gardai, even though he was named in it as one of those for whom a "permanent solution" might be found.

An Garda Siochana has up to now never staged a targeted investigation, properly resourced with specialist units adept in surveillance and intelligence gathering that would be required in an area that has a toxic mix of former Provisional IRA members and organised criminals operating in communities silenced by fear. The suspects for the attack on Mr Lunney are criminals with a track record of robbery and smuggling, former Provisional IRA members and dissidents. Gardai searched yards in Cavan last Friday after a suspicious horsebox was brought to their attention. As of yesterday though, there have been no breakthroughs.

Sean Quinn
Sean Quinn

"We have pressed for surveillance of noted individuals and that hasn't been forthcoming because of either resources or human rights issues," said Liam McCaffrey. "I called for more protection last November when Tony Lunney's daughter's car was burnt. I said somebody would suffer a loss of life if this wasn't taken seriously. There was some uptake in garda activity after that - more patrols," he said.

"This is worse than anything else by a long mark, but what's happened on every other occasion is we get media attention, we get all sorts of attention for a period of days and all of a sudden we are on our own again. That can't happen this time. We've got to see this through to whatever the resolution is, but we can't be left so naked here to try to run a company with 830 staff depending on us. We've enough to be doing with that rather than try to figure out what criminal gang is coming after us."

Fr Gerry Comiskey has been a friend to both Kevin Lunney and Sean Quinn. "It must be bewildering for him [Quinn] to know and feel what is happening now," he said.

"Words cannot describe the horror. As well as hearing him, I have seen Kevin lying there in a bed in casualty. To see him from head to toe does not even allow us to comprehend what he endured, psychologically and physically."

Mr Quinn went on his local radio station, Northern Sound, to condemn the attack on Mr Lunney. "My reaction would be the same as anybody else - it would be a sense of outrage. It would appear to me to be a fairly barbaric attack," he said.

He said he feared he would be blamed. "They have been on to me [that] we're going to take the flak for this, and that we are being blamed for this, and that some people will look in our direction at it.".

The Quinn children have reached out to Lunney family to express their horror and to offer their support, a source said. On Friday, Mr Quinn answered his mobile phone but said he would not comment further. Had he contacted Mr Lunney or his family, what was his message to them? There was the briefest pause. "No. I have not been speaking to Kevin Lunney or any of the Lunneys now in five years."

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