THE sister of a prominent TD was handcuffed to a wheelie-bin in a disused shed for the night as armed thugs attempted to force her husband to pay a "ransom".
The gunmen kidnapped Mary Sullivan in a bid to collect €100,000 from Liam Sullivan, the mails operations director of An Post and regarded as a high flyer in the company.
But they panicked and had to flee empty-handed as the gardai set up a security operation.
Mrs Sullivan is a sister of Fianna Fail chief whip and Kildare South TD Sean O Fearghail.
"She's alright, thank God, but she is still in shock," Mr O Fearghail said last night after his sister made a statement to gardai about her night of horror.
"She has just been reunited with her husband and children now and I've only spoken to her over the phone."
Earlier, Mrs Sullivan had managed to alert gardai to her whereabouts after dragging the wheelie bin from the shed at the back of a derelict house in Rolestown, near Swords, in north Co Dublin, and flagging down a passing car.
Her 44-year-old husband was at home on Monday night, with his wife and their 10-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son, when four masked gunmen forced their way into the house in the townland of Fenore, on the Kildare to Nurney Road.
The children were already in bed when the gunmen struck at 9.30pm. The gang stayed with the couple for more than an hour before two of them abducted Mrs Sullivan.
She was bundled into the back of one of the family's two cars, a silver Mercedes, and driven along back roads and on to the M50 before finally arriving at the derelict house at Rolestown.
Meanwhile, the other raiders held Mr Sullivan in the house overnight, and suggested to him that he should make an excuse to the children to explain the absence of their mother when they got out of bed.
They told Mr Sullivan they wanted €100,000 in a bag and gave him a mobile phone to await further instructions on where he should drop off the money.
The thugs also suggested he should bring the children with him when he went to the drop off point, but Mr Sullivan refused to involve them in the dangerous operation.
Mr Sullivan drove the second car, a silver Honda CRV, to his office at the GPO in O'Connell Street and arrived there with the children shortly after 8am. He consulted with a couple of close colleagues and they gathered €75,000 to hand to the gang.
Mr Sullivan got into the Honda with the money and began to drive around the city as he waited for further directions from the kidnappers. In the meantime, gardai had become aware of the abduction and certain measures were put in place.
Shortly after 9am, the raiders panicked and decided to abandon their plan. Mrs Sullivan was left on her own in the shed and at 9.15am she managed to pull the bin with her to the roadway where she stopped a passing motorist and made contact with gardai. A major investigation was under way last night involving gardai from the Kildare division and detectives from the organised crime unit and the national bureau of criminal investigation.
Gardai checked out the homes of suspected members of criminal gangs involved in past tiger kidnaps and began to narrow the list of potential suspects.
They believe the robbery was the work of a north Dublin gang with links to the inner city.
The Mercedes was found burnt out at Boroimhe, outside Swords, yesterday morning.
Locals expressed their shock at what had happened in the usually quiet estate yesterday.
"It must have been very traumatising for them," one local, who did not wish to be named, said. The family have appealed for privacy.