Four Co Tyrone “runners” for a sinister Dublin kidnap gang hired by a Scottish livestock dealer over four years ago, have been given suspended jail sentences.
Also freed on a suspended jail term was 59-year-old dealer Robet Vevers of Spango Bridge Cottage, Carwick in Dumfries.
Dungannon Crown Court Judge Paul Ramsey QC, sitting in Antrim, said that it was an “unusual, difficult and remarkable case”, in which the “victim and his family disengaged from the prosecution”.
Judge Ramsey said the case against the four Tyrone men had changed considerably since first coming to court following the tiger kidnapping on October 1, 2012. It was acknowledged by the prosecution that they played lesser periphery roles, and had no direct contact with the Dublin gang.
However, it was also accepted that their pleas to lesser charges of conspiracy had been “invaluable” as there had been many triable issues in their case.
Two of the four men, Patrick Noel McCaul, 44, of Slievard Rise and Matthew McClean, 27, of Glenpark Road, both Omagh, who admitted conspiracy to blackmail, had their two-year jail sentences suspended for three years.
The two youngest, also had their sentences suspended for three years for assisting offenders by buying food stuffs and mobile top-up cards to help in the blackmail.
Robert McClean, 22, of Deverney Park, Omagh, was sentenced to 18 months, while Martin Arkinson, 21, of Ballycoleman Estate, Strabane, was given 12 months.
Only Vevers still faced charges of kidnapping, blackmail and false imprisonent, for which he was given the higher tariff of two and a half years, but again suspended for three years.
The kidnap victim, originally from Co Meath but living in Essex, was lured to Northern Ireland on the pretext of a lucrative business deal involving a meat boning plant.
The gang originally demanded a €400,000 ransom from his father, and threatened to cut off his fingers, before finally releasing him after €100,000 was left in a hedge near Bellewstown Racecourse in Co Louth.
Although the Garda was informed of the kidnapping, the gang escaped as officers were kept in the dark about the money drop-off point.