THE terrifying reality behind a tiger kidnapping involving a County Limerick couple will be revealed on a special television documentary to be broadcast next week.
Kidnapped: Ireland’s Tiger Raids, which airs on TV3, features Kilmallock couple James and Lelia Beechinor, who, in 2008 were held at gunpoint by a gang of five masked men.
The gang, who were armed with a sawn-off shot gun, a knife and a handgun, terrorised and threatened the well-known Kilmallock businessman and his wife before ordering him to empty the contents of the safe at his business premises, the Xpress Stop service station in Kilmallock, which is located on the Bruff/Limerick road.
Superintendent Alan Cunningham of Bruff garda station is hoping that the airing of the documentary next Tuesday night will jog someone’s memory and lead to a breakthrough in the case.
“This is still an unsolved crime. It was a horrific crime to have happened,” said Supt Cunningham.
“We would appeal to any persons who would have any knowledge whatsoever about who was involved in the setting up, or carrying out, of the tiger kidnapping to contact us at Bruff garda station.”
Speaking this week, James Beechinor said that while both he and his wife are grateful to be alive, the fear that visited them that night in 2008, will never go away.
“Since then, our lives haven’t been the same and the hurt and fear will never go away from us,” he said.
After breaking into their private home at Sheerin’s Cross on Sunday night, October 19, 2008, the gang threatened the couple when they could not find any money in the house.
The couple were brought to separate rooms in the house and on realising that the money they were after was in the safe at the filling station, two of the gang forced James Beechinor to drive his jeep to the filling station at gunpoint.
Mr Beechinor said at the time: “They said if there was any mistakes, one phone call and they would kill her, kill me and get away. The fellow with the gun got in behind me in the back (of the jeep). He had the gun laid up on my shoulder — right up on my ear — and the other fella, in the passenger seat, had the knife to my side.”
The remaining gang members kept Lelia Beechinor hostage in the family home.
On getting to the filling station, Mr Beechinor was ordered to empty the safe.
He was forced to lock up the shop and drive the gang members back to his house.
While Mr Beechinor had been taken away, the other gang members tied Ms Beechinor’s hands and legs with cable ties and gagged her. This was particularly terrifying for Ms Beechinor as she was now alone in the house with the armed men.
After Mr Beechinor was brought back at gunpoint, he was tied up with cable ties and wire taken from the clothes line and the gang then made off in his jeep.
Mr Beechinor kept pulling at the cable ties and tore the skin from his wrists as he tried to free himself to raise the alarm. His finger was also cut with a knife by a member of the gang.
“Our home will never be the same again. We have had to make huge changes to our lives since then and security at both our home and business is now constantly monitored and reviewed,” Mr Beechinor said this week.
The couple now employ a number of former gardai as members of their staff and security. They have also put a number of other security measures in place on the recommendations of private and senior garda security advisors and the garda crime prevention office .
Mr Beechinor is urging all business owners to exercise caution in all aspects of their business and private home security “as you do not know who is watching you”.
“We would like to thank everyone - our friends, our neighbours, our customers, our staff and the gardai for helping and supporting us through this terrible ordeal,” he said.
Gardai have described the robbery as being well-planned and thought out. They are satisfied that all the gang members spoke with Irish accents.
Kidnapped: Ireland’s Tiger Raids is a two-part series which looks at the origins of the tiger kidnapping crime wave that first appeared on Irish shores during the 1970s.
The Kilmallock case will feature on the next edition which will air on Tuesday, February 11 at 10pm on TV3. Anyone with information which they think may assist the gardai in their investigation can contact Bruff garda station on 061 382940.