Police swooped on suspected members of an organised crime gang as they were about to kidnap a Co Antrim businessman and his wife, it was claimed in the High Court yesterday.
Prosecutors said one masked man armed with a 12in hunting knife was arrested as he broke into the kitchen of the victims’ home in Ballymena.
His co-accused, Ryan O’Reilly, (25) was detained at the back of the property on Old Antrim Road just after 5am on October 8.
Crown lawyer Philip Henry said O’Reilly, of Drumlane Park, Newry, Co Down, was carrying cable ties and a sheath for the knife when he was stopped.
A third man was arrested in a taxi 200 metres away, with detectives believing he drove the suspects from Antrim to the scene and was involved in targeting the house.
Mr Henry said Organised Crime Squad officers carried out the operation at the home of a businessman and his wife, both in their 60s, who own commercial premises in Ballymena.
The barrister told a bail application that detectives believed the couple were the targets for a so-called tiger kidnapping.
He said: "Police fear if the intervention had not taken place the consequences of the actions of the applicant and his co-accused could have been tragic." O’Reilly faces charges of aggravated burglary and attempted robbery.
The court was told he had travelled 70 miles from south Armagh as part of the alleged plot.
"Police believe the three individuals form part of an organised crime gang," Mr Henry added.
"There is concern on the part of the police at the level of sophistication, targeting and planning that went into the alleged offence." Adjourning the application, Mr Justice Hart directed that another judge who dealt with O’Reilly’s co-accused should decide whether or not to grant bail.