Prosecution witnesses to take stand in McFarlane case

Prosecution witnesses will begin giving evidence today in the trial of a former IRA chief allegedly involved in the kidnapping of a supermarket boss 25 years ago.

Prosecution witnesses will begin giving evidence today in the trial of a former IRA chief allegedly involved in the kidnapping of a supermarket boss 25 years ago.

Prison escapee Brendan McFarlane (aged 56), yesterday pleaded not guilty at Dublin’s Special Criminal Court to three charges linked with the abduction of Quinnsworth executive Don Tidey.

Mr Tidey was snatched in the Irish capital on November 24, 1983 and held captive for more than three weeks in a secluded Co Leitrim wood before being rescued by security forces.

A trainee garda officer and a soldier were killed in gunfire exchanged during the daring operation.

Opening the trial yesterday barrister Edward Comyn for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) said Mr Tidey was abducted by an armed gang posing as policemen.

He said a cooking pot, plastic container and milk carton found at the hideout had fingerprints on them linking McFarlane to the crime, although some items of evidence have since been lost.

Mr Tidey is expected to be the first of the witnesses to testify today.

His daughter Susan, who was in the car when the incident happened, and his son who was travelling behind them will also give evidence.

Garda and Defence Forces witnesses are also being called.

Mr Tidey was brought to the secluded wood via a number of different vehicles, Mr Comyn told the court.

The men were heavily armed and Mr Tidey was told his life was in his own hands and he was being held for ransom.

On December 16 security forces closed in on the hideout and gunfire broke out between the kidnappers, army and gardaí.

Trainee garda Gary Sheehan and Irish Defence Forces Private Patrick Kelly were killed in the shootout.

During the dramatic operation the kidnappers took a number of rescuers hostage while they made their way to a blue Opel car to escape.

A garda detective was injured when the fleeing gang opened fire.

Mr Comyn said the kidnappers were well-organised and highly disciplined.

He added McFarlane’s fingerprints were found on three items found at the hideout – a milk carton, plastic container and a cooking pot.

While photographs of the fingerprints remain, the loss of the original evidence sparked an initial challenge by McFarlane in 1999 which led to a decade of court proceedings.

He lost his legal challenge in March to stop the case going through the courts, claiming delays by the state in bringing the prosecution.

McFarlane had been imprisoned at the Maze in Belfast since 1975 for his part in the IRA bombing of a bar in the city’s Shankill Road in which five people were killed.

He was the head of the Provisional IRA prisoners at the Maze and escaped in the mass breakout by 38 inmates from the jail in September 1983.

He was later arrested in Amsterdam in early 1986, extradited to the North and released on parole from the Maze in 1997.

He was arrested by gardaí outside Dundalk in Co Louth in January 1998.

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