The words of Kevin McGeever as he felt the cold steel of a pistol on his forehead while he lay, emaciated and bruised, in a darkened shipping container after being abducted by masked men from his palatial home in Galway last May.
The circumstances of his abduction are strange, to say the least. Stranger still was the manner of his release.
The dishevelled and gaunt figure in the middle of the road on the Leitrim-Cavan border on Tuesday of last week did not look like a property mogul. Barefoot, with long hair, and a scraggly beard, the man looked more like a vagrant.
When Catherine Vallely stopped her car after spotting him, she had initially thought the outline of the scrawny figure ahead of her was a traffic cone.
“He had red trousers that made me think it was a cone in the middle of the road,” she said.
As a good Samaritan, she brought him to the local Garda station at Ballinamore. Shortly afterwards, he was brought to Mullingar hospital where he was treated for malnutrition and dehydration.
When his brother, Brendan, first saw him at the hospital last Sunday, he was horrified, even though other family members had warned him that he was in for a shock.
“When I went to see him on Sunday morning in Mullingar hospital, there were other members of the family there as well and somebody said to me, ‘you are going to be shocked when you see him, so just be careful when you come in here’. When I walked into that room in the hospital I saw this guy lying in the bed.
“The man I knew always looked impeccable. He was about 14 stone, a good-looking man, not overweight and in prime condition. The guy I was looking at was like a weather-beaten 90-year-old who had just been released from a concentration camp.
“I took his hand in mine and it was like holding the hand of a child.”
Speaking to John Murray on RTÉ radio yesterday, Brendan McGeever said he knew little or nothing about his brother’s business dealings and had no idea why he had been kidnapped, other than his brother was adamant that reports of a Russian mafia involvement was nonsense.
Kevin McGeever never saw his captors or spoke to them, said Brendan.
“Everything was written down. Their faces were covered and he could see only their eyes. At one stage he was told that he had only two more days to live. Someone put a gun to his forehead at one time and he said: ‘Do it now. I have made my peace with my God and I am ready.’ That happened quite a few times.”
Brendan also revealed that his brother suffered physical abuse and was starved of proper nutrition. When fed, he was given “two white slices of bread” with maybe lettuce or mustard, and a five-litre can of water.
“He said to me that could not lift it because he thought his wrist was broken. He was trying to sit up in a cold container and trying to lift it to his mouth but the water was so cold that he could not bear it going into his stomach,” said Brendan.
During the Celtic Tiger boom, Kevin Mr McGeever ran an international property business selling luxury homes in Dubai.
He is currently listed in legal proceedings before the High Court in a case being taken against KMM Properties.
Before his ordeal, he had lived in a palatial property christened “Nirvana”, and during the boom, was estimated to be worth in the region of €5m.
Mr McGeever is the first multimillionaire to have been kidnapped in the Republic for decades.
In the 1970s and ’80s the Provisional IRA engaged in kidnapping wealthy business people for ransom. In 1983, they kidnapped supermarket executive Don Tidey and demanded a ransom of £5m. Trainee garda Gary Sheehan and soldier Patrick Kelly were killed in a shoot-out during a security operation to rescue him.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has said detectives are “merely teasing out” the full circumstances behind the alleged kidnapping of Kevin McGeever.
The Garda chief said a criminal investigation would only be established if gardaí found evidence of criminality in relation to the claims made by Mr McGeever, who was found wandering on a remote border road in a dishevelled and emaciated state last Tuesday week.
Mr McGeever, 58, had reportedly told family members he was abducted by criminals and held in grim conditions, at gunpoint, in some sort of shipping container for eight months.
He apparently told them kidnappers demanded a €10m ransom and claimed that they took €80,000 from one of his bank accounts before releasing him.
It is understood Mr McGeever has not yet made a complaint about this payment to gardaí.
Detectives are approaching the case with an open mind and are determined to get to the bottom of it. Several Garda sources have described the circumstances of the case as “bizarre”.
Commenting yesterday, Mr Callinan said: “It’s a work in progress, but we are working with everybody concerned to try and get to the end of this story and find out what’s behind it.”
Asked was it a criminal investigation, he said: “At the moment, until such time as we find something, we’re merely teasing out all the aspects. We’re listening to what Mr McGeever and anyone else who has information, we’re listening to what they have to say and we will take it from there.”
— Cormac O’Keeffe