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Ireland’s most infamous tiger kidnappings

by @JOEdotie
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As well as the submarine, caterpillar tracks used on tanks and the car bomb, us Irish can take credit for another violent invention – the tiger kidnapping.

By Robert Carry

Tiger kidnappings started out in the early 1970s and were originally adapted from a Provisional IRA tactic – kidnapping the loved ones of people associated with the British security forces and obliging the offending party to drive bombs to various locations, under the threat that their loved ones would be hurt if they didn’t comply.

It was soon discovered that as well as being a useful means of causing mayhem, the strategy could also yield a few bob for IRA coffers if bank officials became the target.

The first recorded tiger kidnapping came way back in 1972 but the strategy didn’t earn its name, so-called because of the predatory stalking of victims which precedes the kidnap, until the 1980s. Since then however, they have become a key part of the Irish criminal landscape. Here, JOE.ie takes a look at some of the most notorious seen on our shores.

2004 Northern Bank Robbery

In December 2004, groups of armed men masquerading as PSNI officers arrived at the homes of two Northern Bank officials in Downpatrick and Poleglass near Belfast and took their families hostage.

Chris Ward and his supervisor Kevin McMullan were instructed to report for work at the bank’s Belfast headquarters and after spending the day at their desks, they stayed late and opened the building for gang members to enter.

The robbers unloaded the bank’s cash storage facility, which was swollen in preparation for the Christmas rush, into their vans and made their getaway. They released the family members of the staff unharmed.

The haul included £10m of uncirculated Northern Bank sterling banknotes, £5.5m of used Northern Bank sterling notes, £4.5m of circulated sterling notes issued by other banks, and small amounts of other currencies, largely Euros and U.S. Dollars.

The Northern Bank notes were rendered largely useless however, when the bank decided to recall all £300 million worth of its banknotes in denominations of £10 or more, and reissue them in different colours.

Rumours abounded in the days and weeks after the robbery that the Provisional IRA was involved, despite the fact that the group released a statement denying it had carried out the robbery. A number of Provisional IRA members were arrested, but none were ever charged.

Republican paramilitaries were again linked to the robbery when a man later charged with Real IRA membership was found in possession of €94,000 shortly after the robbery in Dublin’s Heuston Station.

The 2009 Bank of Ireland robbery

Although various paramilitary groupings used tiger kidnappings liberally throughout the Troubles, they reached a peak in the mid-2000s when criminal gangs cottoned on to the sort of figures they could be bring in.

The biggest robbery in the history of the Republic came just last year when a criminal gang kidnapped junior bank employee Shane Travers and forced him to remove €7.6 million from Bank of Ireland’s College Green cash centre while his girlfriend and two others were held hostage.

The drama started in February 2009 when Travers was alone watching television at the home of his girlfriend near Kilteel, County Kildare, while she was out shopping with her mother and Travers’ five-year-old nephew.

When they arrived home, six masked men dressed in black and carrying handguns jumped from the bushes and forced their way into the house. The next morning, the family were tied up and put into the family car, before being driven to Ashbourne in County Meath.

Travers meanwhile, was provided with a photograph of his girlfriend and the rest of the group bound with guns pointing at them and sent into work with instructions to gather as much loot as he could. If colleagues questioned his behaviour he was to convince them by showing the photo.

He carried some €7.6 million from the building in laundry bags and drove off to Clontarf Dart station where he handed over the cash.

The captives were freed, although Travers’ girlfriend had to be taken to hospital for treatment of a head wound sustained when one of the raiders struck her over the head with a vase.

A manhunt swung into operation and seven people were arrested with €1.8 million of the haul being recovered scattered in various locations around Dublin.

It wouldn’t be the last such attack. Shortly after the robbery Charlie Flanagan TD remarked that “tiger kidnappings are taking place in Ireland… at a rate of almost one per week.”

2009 Kilkenny hurler kidnapping

Tiger kidnappings however, don’t always go according to plan – as in the case of an incident involving Kilkenny hurler Adrian Ronan.

Three armed and masked men broke into the Ronan family home back in November of last year, and Ms Ronan was taken away at gunpoint while her children slept upstairs. Adrian was told to go into work in Bank of Ireland’s Parliament Street branch as normal, before being told that his wife would only be released unharmed if he managed to secure €3 million for the gang.Ronan was also given a phone and told he would receive a call with instructions for the drop off.

When the gang called at lunch time, Ronan was forced to tell them that the time-lock safe system meant he could only get €200,000. They demanded he get more money initially, before calling back an hour later to say that he should go to his car with whatever amount he could get and await further instructions. The raiders however, never called back.

Strangely, bank officials had been informed of the robbery attempt and informed gardaí. Ms Ronan, who was held at an unmanned weather station in Kilkenny City was left unattended in the early afternoon. She left the building and was quickly found by gardaí.

The raiders failed to get their hands on a penny and to make things worse, gardaí later arrested six men and four women in a number of raids around Dublin.

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