Three police forces carry out searches in Kevin Lunney investigation
THE convicted criminal who died during a police raid in England yesterday was considered a key suspect in the kidnapping and torture of Co Fermanagh businessman Kevin Lunney.
Cyril McGuiness, a gangster and smuggler also known as 'Dublin Jimmy', was taken ill while Derbyshire Police were searching a house where he was staying in the Buxton area.
It is believed he had a heart attack.
The raid was part of a co-ordinated series of search operations, mainly focused on the Irish border area, linked to the brutal attack on Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) director Kevin Lunney in September.
Mr Lunney (50) was abducted outside his home near Derrylin and taken to a horse box across the border where he was savagely beaten.
His attackers broke his leg, sliced his fingernails and face with a Stanley knife, carved QIH on his chest, and doused the father-of-six in bleach.
The attack, during which his assailants demanded his resignation, was the most serious in a five-year campaign of intimidation targeting the companies and directors that now control a business portfolio formerly built up by Sean Quinn, once Ireland's richest man.
At a press conference in Dublin yesterday with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton described the death as "very regrettable".
"The PSNI commissioned a search in England with the support of the police officers there and a report has been that a man has died, which is very regrettable," he said.
"That is now a matter of investigation in England separate to this ongoing inquiry."
McGuinness (54) is originally from the Derrylin area.
It is understood he was being treated as a main suspect in the investigation into Mr Lunney's abduction and was "lying low" in England amid the intense public and police focus on the crime.
In a statement, Derbyshire Police said: "Our officers carried out a search warrant at an address in Buxton this morning, on behalf of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
"Shortly after that warrant was carried out at 7.30am, a 54-year-old man inside the property was taken ill.
"Despite our officers administering first aid at the scene and requesting support from paramedics, the man later died.
"We have referred ourselves to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC), which has now launched an independent investigation into the circumstances.
"As a result, we are unable to make any further comment."
Mr Lunney spoke publicly about his ordeal for the first time this week in a powerful TV interview.
A sinister element in the community in the Fermanagh/Cavan border area, where the QIH companies are based, continues to vent anger at the demise of Mr Quinn's empire.
The Quinn family have consistently condemned and distanced themselves from those attacking the new owners.
Gardaí yesterday searched five locations in Co Cavan, three in Co Longford and four in Dublin.
The premises were a mixture of domestic dwellings and commercial business premises.
The PSNI meanwhile searched five locations in Derrylin.
Mr Hamilton spoke at Garda headquarters with Mr Harris to announce that police and prosecutors on both sides of the border had agreed to establish a landmark "joint investigation" into the intimidation campaign.
Mr Harris described the agreement, which will be overseen by EU law and order agency Eurojust, as an "important advance".
"These (attacks) have been obviously a subject of public concern lately and we want to be seen to act in a strong and robust way to show that there's no room for criminality anywhere on the island of Ireland and that, as police services, we are co-operating in the strongest fashion possible to bring the perpetrators to justice," he said.
Mr Hamilton said yesterday's searches represented "one phase" of the probe and there would be "other phases to come".
"We have made a significant effort to try to make sure the people of Fermanagh feel safe during this period and we are working very collaboratively on both sides of the border to do that."
Mr Harris said: "These are well-resourced investigations, they are proceeding, they are making progress.
"At the same time, we have made a commitment to the policing of Co Cavan and to assure the people of Co Cavan that the rule of law will prevail."
The management at QIH welcomed the search operations.
"The searches mark an important milestone in bringing those involved in attacks on QIH staff to justice.
"We encourage anyone with information to make contact with the Gardai or PSNI on a confidential basis."