08 February 2006

Paramilitaries may be behind kidnap ordeal

Belfast Telegraph

Substantial ransom is handed over

By Clare Weir
08 February 2006

A possible paramilitary link is being investigated into what police believe is Derry's first "tiger kidnapping".

Three men from the city were recovering today from a lengthy ordeal which saw two of them dumped in a forest after being abducted for a ransom.

The PSNI say that a "substantial" sum in cash was taken from off-licence Star Value's headquarters after a staff member, his brother and a friend were held hostage at a house in the Rosemount area by four armed men on Sunday.

PSNI Chief Superintendent Richard Russell said yesterday that two Derry men were abandoned in rural Donegal after a substantial ransom was handed over on Monday.

The staff member was sent to work as normal on Monday morning and ordered to bring a substantial lodgement to a location to secure the release of his brother and a friend.

The pair held hostage were discovered by guards in a forest near Grainne's Gap, near Muff, at around 4pm yesterday.

The victims, who police said suffered a "terrible ordeal" were still being interviewed yesterday and tests carried out on a car used to drop off the money.

Chief Superintendent Russell said that a paramilitary link to the robbery was "a possibility".

He added that he had "serious concerns" about the robbery.

"I know there have been a number of these types of incidents in Strabane, but obviously there are now serious concerns that it has spread here.

"It is too early to say who carried this out, or if it is connected to any previous incidents. However, the fact that it was carried out by a paramilitary gang is a possibility."

There have been a number of "tiger kidnappings" - when a family member or friend is held to force the victim to take part in a robbery - in Strabane in recent years, with up to £400,000 stolen during two robberies at the town's Ulster Bank branch.

Other high profile targets across the province have included a raid at Boots and the multi-million pound robbery at the Northern Bank in Belfast.

But this latest incident is thought to be the first of its kind in Derry.

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