Kidnap accused admitted being at camp, court told

A former IRA chief told detectives investigating the kidnapping of a supermarket boss that he was at a hidden camp where the captive was held, it was claimed in court today.

A former IRA chief told detectives investigating the kidnapping of a supermarket boss that he was at a hidden camp where the captive was held, it was claimed in court today.

Brendan McFarlane is alleged to have accepted fingerprint evidence that gardaí believed proved his presence at the scene during the 1983 kidnapping of Don Tidey.

Retired Detective Garda James Hanley told Dublin’s Special Criminal Court that the 56-year-old also said he was prepared for the worst.

“I was there. You can prove that. But I will not talk about it,” the former garda read from his interview notes.

Mr McFarlane’s legal team denied he made any admission in Dundalk garda station.

Mr Tidey was snatched outside his Dublin home by an armed gang and held captive for more than three weeks in a secluded Co Leitrim wood before being rescued by the security forces.

McFarlane, of Jamaica Street, Belfast, has pleaded not guilty to three charges linked with the crime.

Mr Hanley told the court that McFarlane said “he was prepared for the big one” and had already discussed the future with his partner.

When asked if he was talking about murder, McFarlane is alleged to have said: “I am prepared for the worst.”

McFarlane was said to have told officers he met his partner, Lena Halkjaer, from Copenhagen in Denmark, while on the run on the Continent 10 years earlier and had moved back to Belfast the previous year.

He said she knew why he had been arrested on a commuter bus in Dundalk in January 1998. “Yes, I told her everything,” McFarlane is claimed to have said.

“I find it’s best in situations like this to tell the truth.”

Mr Hanley, a member of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI) who had 30 years’ service at the time, said McFarlane later refused to comment on claims that his fingerprints were found on kitchen utensils, Tupperware and a milk carton in Derrada Wood at Drumcronan, Ballinamore.

Hugh Hartnett SC, for McFarlane, accused the retired garda and his colleague, Detective Superintendent Dominic Hayes, of fabricating his client's admission.

The barrister also quizzed the detectives on why they never mentioned their apparent breakthrough in later interviews with the former IRA chief.

Mr Hartnett then listed a litany of criticisms recorded by judges against the detectives and their colleagues in the late 1990s in a number of high- profile and controversial cases in the Republic.

They included investigations into the murders of journalist Veronica Guerin and Dublin woman Geraldine Diver, the questioning of Colm Murphy after the Omagh bombing, and the Morris Tribunal.

The barrister said Mr Hanley had been criticised during the conviction of drug dealer John Gilligan – who was believed to be involved in the shooting of Ms Guerin – for not keeping a record of several meetings he had with two key witnesses.

In a separate case involving another Guerin suspect, a judge found Paul Ward’s partner had been subjected to grievous psychological pressure by Mr Hanley.

Elsewhere, the failure of officers to record two out of five interviews given by John Diver in December 1998 was “a gross, deliberate and conscious breach of regulations.”

Mr Hanley and Mr Hayes, who had not dated or timed their statements, were among the teams involved.

The 2002 conviction against Murphy in connection with Omagh was later overturned following claims that two other officers lied during his trial and had rewritten interview notes.

Mr Hartnett said his client never made an admission to being in the wood to officers.

“My suggestion to you is my client, Mr McFarlane, remained silent throughout these interviews and he did not make the statement or the words you contained in your memo of interview,” he said to Mr Hanley.

“That his words in relation to reference to the wood were never spoken.”

The detective replied: “The words, yes, they were spoken.”

McFarlane was jailed in 1974 in the Maze prison near Belfast 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 in September 1983.

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

He was arrested for unlawful possession of firearms on January 5, 1998 as he travelled on a commuter bus between Belfast and Dublin.

He currently denies one charge of imprisoning Mr Tidey and two firearms offences.

Trainee Garda Gary Sheehan, 23, from Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, and Patrick Kelly, 35, an Army private from Moate, Co Westmeath, were both shot dead during Mr Tidey’s rescue.

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