Lord of the Dance Michael Flatley chased rhino horn thieves in sports car
Lord of the Dance Michael Flatley used his sports car to chase a gang who broke into his north Cork mansion to steal valuables and an African rhino horn.
The Chicago-born star, who is a former Golden Gloves boxer, raced after the raiders in a vain bid to track them until gardai could intercept the gang.
However, the dancer first checked that his wife, Niamh, and son, Michael Jnr, were safe before going after the raiders.
By the time he reached the Castlehyde gateway on the Fermoy-Mallow road, the gang had vanished.
"I don't really want to say much because the gardai are examining the house. I don't want to interfere with their investigation in any way," he said.
"But I will say that the gardai have been absolutely fantastic. They were here within minutes of the alarm being raised. In fact, I couldn't believe how fast they arrived," he said.
The dancer stressed he was relieved that his family and all Castlehyde employees are safe and unhurt. "I'm going to let the gardai do their job. They've been absolutely great and I have every faith in them."
Members of a Limerick-based gang are the prime suspects in the raid on the 18th-Century Castlehyde House.
Gardai are convinced that the robbery was not a random burglary but the work of the Rathkeale-based gang responsible for the theft of four rhino heads from the National Museum last year.
The gang were disturbed by the dancer after he went to investigate a loud noise but managed to flee with an African rhino horn, which they ripped off a display.
Gardai and Castlehyde employees are now checking the inventory of valuables and art works to see if anything else is missing.
Rhino horns can be worth over €200,000 on the Asian black market where they are used for traditional medicines. Horn powder is now worth more by weight than gold. It estimated that the precious Rhinoceros horn can fetch up to €60,000 per kilo when sold on the illegal black market.
The single greatest value attached to a rhino horn was a reputed €200,000 paid in China for a super-sized horn from a large male Black Rhino.
While most rhino horns sourced for the Asian black market involves White Rhino species, Black Rhino are worth significantly more.
The dancer was playing computer games with his son and wife when he heard a suspicious noise coming from one wing of his mansion.
He turned on the lights in that wing of the house to investigate but was shocked to see dark-clothed figures running away across the lawn and driveway.
He later confirmed that a window near his safari room, adjacent to his garage, had been forced open.
The dancer accidentally disturbed the thieves before they had a chance to ransack other valuables from the property.
Castlehyde House – purchased by the star in 2001 for €4.5m – was renovated and refurbished at a cost of €30m.
The dancer, a supporter of African conservation charities, also has a famous collection of rifles and shotguns but these are kept in a bulletproof case, which was untouched by the thieves.
The star has lavished a fortune on art, fixtures and fittings for the 18th-Century house. His three-storey library also includes a number of priceless first editions including such works as James Joyce's 'Ulysses'.
Gardai are now appealing for anyone who may have spotted suspicious activity near Castlehyde or along the Fermoy-Mallow Road over the last few days to contact them.
It remains unclear how the gang managed to bypass the sophisticated security systems around Castlehyde.