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Guilty pleas by four men over roles in kidnap plot

By Michael Donnelly

Published 01/12/2016

Four Co Tyrone men have pleaded guilty to involvement in a tiger kidnapping to extort a
€400,000 ransom from a cattle dealer.
Four Co Tyrone men have pleaded guilty to involvement in a tiger kidnapping to extort a €400,000 ransom from a cattle dealer.

Four Co Tyrone men have pleaded guilty to involvement in a tiger kidnapping to extort a €400,000 ransom from a cattle dealer.

No details of the 2012 plot were given in court yesterday.

However, an earlier hearing was told the dealer's son, 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 near Ballymena.

Shortly after being picked up from the Cairnryan ferry in Larne he was told he was being taken to Omagh to meet another man, but instead was driven to an isolated farmhouse where he was handed over to a gang of up to eight armed men.

A phone call made to his father demanded €400,000 (£339,000) for his release. However, the ransom was negotiated down to €100,000 (£84,000).

His son was eventually released in Drogheda, Co Louth, after the sum was left in a hedge.

The four Tyrone men had been due to go on trial in Dungannon on Monday accused of playing various roles. But yesterday Judge Paul Ramsey was told "matters had been resolved".

Lawyers for the four - Patrick McCaul (44), of Slieveard Rise, Omagh; Matthew McClean (27), of Glenpark Road, Omagh; Robert McClean (22), of Deverney Park, Omagh, and Martin Arkinson (21), of Ballycoleman estate in Strabane, asked for some of the charges to be put to them.

McCaul and Matthew McClean pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit blackmail between September 1 and October 7, 2012, while Robert McClean and Arkinson pleaded to a newly added charge of assisting offenders by buying foodstuffs and telephone top-up cards to help in the blackmail.

A charge of perverting the course of justice against a 25-year-old Omagh woman, Emma McCausland from Glenpark Road, was allowed to remain on the books, as were charges of conspiracy to kidnap and false imprisonment against the four men.

They will be sentenced in the new year along with 59-year-old Robert Vevers, of Spango Bridge Cottage, Crawick, Dumfries. He had pleaded guilty two years ago to the tiger kidnap and false imprisonment conspiracies.

Vevers had travelled with the victim on the ferry from Scotland and was with him when they were met by a man in a silver BMW, who drove them off.

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