A west Belfast man who lent his car to a tiger kidnap gang has been jailed for 10 years.
Jailing 41-year-old Thomas Shaw at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Patrick Lynch QC told him that while he accepted he had played a lesser role in the “heinous” offence, his supplying of a clean car was “important, indeed integral” to the crime.
At the end of his trial in March, Shaw, from Ladymar Court, was convicted of six counts of falsely imprisoning a family and one of blackmailing a Post Office assistant manager.
The jury heard that just after midnight on August 23, 2005, the manager returned to her west Belfast home after a family gathering.
She was confronted by two masked men, one of whom was armed with a handgun.
She was forced to an upstairs bedroom where she was tied up, and when the rest of her family came back they were forced into the kitchen, ordered to lie on the ground and tied up with cable ties and tape put over their eyes and mouths.
Her daughter, then aged 18, was tied to a chair.
The men detailed to the manager numerous personal details about her and her family — names, jobs and movements.
She was told that when the Post Office on Kennedy Way opened, she must empty the safe, especially the euros.
The jury heard that the Post Office was the “number one exchange in Ireland” for sterling and euro.
The gunmen warned the manager not to “muck about... don't be a hero” or her daughter would be hurt, and ordered her to drive to a certain part of west Belfast and wait for the Post Office to open.
The pair then left the house, leaving her family tied up, but they managed to escape and raise the alarm.
Officers met the manager at the Post Office and arranged that instead of money, the bags which were to be collected would be filled with shredded paper.
They kept the drop-off point under surveillance as Shaw's car pulled up.
Unfortunately, they lost sight of it for a short time, later finding it abandoned with at least one of the ‘money' bags torn open.
Judge Lynch said it was clear to the gang, by that stage, that they had been “rumbled” but Shaw fled to the Republic before eventually handing himself into police in 2009.
“The courts have made it clear that offences such as this will attract heavy sentences, given the gravity of the offence, colloquially called tiger kidnappings,” said the judge.