Belfast Telegraph

Armed gang demanded £320k ransom to release cattle dealer, court told

By Adrian Rutherford

An armed gang who kidnapped a cattle dealer and held him captive for five days tried to extort a €400,000 (£322,000) ransom from his father, a court has heard.

The alleged victim was lured to Northern Ireland on the pretext of a business deal before being abducted and held by the criminals.

He was only released when the ransom — later negotiated down to €100,000 (£80,000) — was paid by his father, who lives in the Republic, it was claimed.

The victim, who cannot be named, is originally from Co Meath but was living in Essex more recently. It was claimed he had “conned” more than €200,000 (£160,000) from one of the alleged kidnappers.

Appearing before Dungannon Magistrates Court were Patrick Noel McCaul (39), with an address in Omagh, and Robert Vevers (55), from Dumfries in Scotland. Both men face charges of kidnapping, false imprisonment and blackmail.

The court heard it was a complex case, spanning Northern Ireland, the Republic and Scotland, and involving “very high-level criminals”. The alleged victim was held between October 1 and 5.

It was claimed Vevers and the alleged victim had travelled to Northern Ireland on a ferry from Cairnryan on the pretext of visiting a meat factory. On arrival they were met by an unidentified man who was driving a silver BMW. He said they were travelling to Omagh to collect another person.

The alleged victim described how the atmosphere changed on the journey. He wanted to leave but was not allowed.

After arriving at a farmhouse, the alleged victim was moved to another vehicle and taken to an unknown location, where he was tied up. The gang called his father, who has an address in the South, demanding a €400,000 ransom for his release. Threats were made to kill the alleged victim, the court heard. Negotiations ended with a €100,000 ransom agreed. This was left in a hedge, and the man was released in Drogheda, Co Louth.

McCaul was later arrested at his home where police found the phone used to make the ransom demand. A note was found hidden behind its battery containing a list of numbers used by the alleged kidnappers.

Detectives also discovered a silver BMW at his workplace.

Both men were remanded until November 6.

A 22-year-old man is expected to appear at Strabane Magistrate’s Court today charged with kidnap, false imprisonment and blackmail.

Background

Two men have been charged with kidnapping a cattle dealer, held between October 1 and 5. A total of four men and a woman were arrested in Omagh in connection with the case on Saturday. On Monday, a 28-year-old man was released on bail pending police inquiries. Yesterday, a 38-year-old woman was released unconditionally. A 22-year-old man has now been charged with kidnap, false imprisonment and blackmail.

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