Police believe computers, phones and documentation seized from a “safe house” used by the suspected orchestrator of the abduction of Kevin Lunney could have “significant potential” in unearthing evidence.
Cyril McGuinness, a former Provisional IRA figure and a major crime boss, suffered a heart attack during a search of the property in Derbyshire, England.
Mr Lunney, a director of Quinn Industrial Holdings, was kidnapped near his home in Derrylin, Co Fermanagh, last September before being tortured and dumped half-naked on the roadside in Co Cavan.
The search in England was part of co-ordinated cross-border searches, with 12 raids in the South and five in the North. The searches came on the day Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton launched the first ever all-Ireland joint investigation team to target the gang behind the intimidation, with a remit back as far as 2012.
McGuinness, the head of a cross-border organised crime gang, had fled from his home, also in Derrylin, in recent months to what he thought was a safe house in Buxton in the East Midlands.
Sources indicated the convicted criminal was shocked by the search, becoming seriously ill, and was unable to hide potentially incriminating material in the house.
“There was quite a lot of stuff taken away, computers, phones and documentation, that could have significant potential,” said one senior source.
He seems to have been taken by surprise and didn’t have time to hide stuff.
McGuinness, known as ‘Dublin Jimmy’, was previously a significant player in the Provisional IRA and headed a smuggling and robbery empire, known for ATM robberies.
The 54-year-old had more than 50 convictions and was known to European police forces over vehicle theft.
He was extradited in August 2011 to Belgium for stealing construction and farm machinery, including 20 cranes and trucks in the Netherlands and Belgium.
Other former members of the PIRA are suspected of being involved in his gang, assisted by family members and local criminals. This outfit is suspected of being behind the escalating five-year campaign of intimidation and violence targeting QIH directors and properties in Fermanagh and Cavan.
Detectives are not sure what impact the death of the main suspect will have on other members of the criminal enterprise, but sources said some might “open up” given the fear and control their former boss instilled was gone.
Searches led by the Cavan-Monaghan Division involved some 100 gardaí, involving national garda units. They formed part of an “evidence-gathering stage” in the criminal investigation. Five searches were conducted in Co Cavan, three in Co Longford and four in Dublin, in homes and commercial premises. Five PSNI searches were conducted in the Derrylin area.
At a joint press briefing at Garda HQ, Commissioner Harris and Assistant Chief Constable Hamilton announced the first-ever Joint Investigation Team under the EU’s judicial co-operation body Eurojust. joint investigation team are based on an agreement between prosecutors and judges regarding the sharing of evidence.
Mr Hamilton said the initiative was about combining evidence to bring prosecutions in whichever of the two jurisdictions was the “best place” to do so.
The Garda and PSNI investigations will run in parallel with each other but share evidence.
Asked whether the investigation was also targeting the “paymaster” behind the abduction, Commissioner Harris said all facets of the crime were being investigated, including “motivation”.
In a statement, QIH welcome the joint investigative efforts "evident" in the coordinated searches.
“The searches mark an important milestone in bringing those involved in attacks on QIH staff to justice,” it said.