Northern Ireland

Kidnapped cattle dealer's 'shipping container cell'

Kidnapping shipping container Image copyright PSNI
Image caption Paul Gogan was kept in this shipping container for five days after being kidnapped

Images of a squalid shipping container where a kidnapped cattle dealer was held hostage for five days by a criminal gang have been released.

PSNI detectives revealed details of the investigation that led to five men being given suspended sentences for the kidnapping of Paul Gogan.

Prosecutors have said they are considering an appeal against sentences that they consider too lenient.

Mr Gogan, from Essex, was kept in the disused container in a field.

The container was at a remote site near Castlederg, County Tyrone.

The victim, who is originally from County Meath in the Republic of Ireland, was allegedly threatened with a shotgun and told he would be killed or have his fingers cut off.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption The container was in a field near Castlederg, County Tyrone

The gang allegedly demanded a 400,000 euro (£349,438) ransom from Mr Gogan's father for his return.

Scottish businessman Robert Vevers and four other men from County Tyrone pleaded guilty to various offences relating to the kidnapping.

Vevers, 59, from Crawick, Dumfries, claimed the victim owed him a debt of £227,000 after a livestock deal.

When handing down a suspended sentence to Vevers, the judge said he had "effectively sold his soul" by contacting criminals in Dublin to try and recover the money.

Horse faeces and dirty mattresses

Det Ch Insp Raymond Murray, from the PSNI, said the victim suffered a "terrifying ordeal" when he was held over a disputed debt.

"He didn't know whether he was going to live, he didn't know whether he was going to die - he didn't know if he did live, was he going to come out hurt, permanently injured, with fingers cut off," he said.

Mr Gogan was released across the Irish border after a reduced ransom of 100,000 euro (£87,360) was paid by his family - money that has never been recovered.

Images released to the Press Association show the conditions inside Mr Gogan's makeshift cell.

Bound by cable ties, Mr Gogan was held in pitch darkness, surrounded by horse faeces and with only dirty mattresses to lie on.

Image caption Scottish businessman Robert Vevers claimed Paul Gogan owed him £227,000 after a livestock deal.

There was no sanitation and he was given limited food and water.

"Kidnapping is a very, very traumatic crime," said Det Ch Insp Murray.

"Thankfully, it is reasonably infrequent in Northern Ireland and that's the way we want to keep it and that's why this case is a success story for us.

"We overcame a number of criminal justice hurdles to convict five individuals in relation to a very, very serious crime."

Det Ch Insp Murray praised the "tenacity and commitment" of his officers. He said their task was made more difficult when Mr Gogan withdrew his complaint two years into the investigation.

Image caption Paul Gogan was kept in the shipping containter in a remote part of County Tyrone for five days

Despite no victim testimony, CCTV, DNA and phone evidence helped build the case.

"Dedicated detectives working for four years with a reluctant witness and one telephone number built a case that was capable of bring five individuals before the court for very, very serious crimes," said Mr Murray.

Meanwhile, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said it was considering referring the sentences to the Court of Appeal on the grounds of being unduly lenient.

The maximum jail term for kidnap is life, while that for blackmail is 14 years.

A PPS spokesman said: "The Public Prosecution Service is currently considering if there is a basis to refer the sentence in this case to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that it may be unduly lenient.

"An unduly lenient sentence is one that falls outside the range of sentence that a judge, taking into consideration all relevant factors and having regard to sentencing guidance, could reasonably consider appropriate."

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