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Lay magistrate questioned over tiger kidnapping asks Police Ombudsman to review her case

Delia Van Der Lenden pictured at home in south Armagh. Picture by Mal McCann

A LAY magistrate questioned by the PSNI over a suspected republican tiger kidnapping has asked the Police Ombudsman to re-examine her case.

Delia van der Lenden and her husband Peter - a retired Dutch navy officer - were questioned about the £200,000 robbery in August 2011.

Her son Ciaran Cunningham, who was a prominent spokesman for Republican Network for Unity (RNU) at the time, was also questioned. All three were later released without charge.

The 41-year-old ex republican prisoner, who served time in connection with a Real IRA intelligence gathering operation, is currently suing the PSNI for wrongful arrest.

Mrs van der Lenden and her husband were arrested and questioned after their south Armagh home was raided by police following the tiger kidnapping which involved a woman and her 16-year-old stepson being abducted from their home in west Belfast and taken to Co Monaghan.

The woman's partner, a security van driver, was then ordered to take cash from his place of work before the pair were released.

Mrs van der Lenden, a social worker, who is a former director of ChildLine and assistant director of Save the Children, who specialises in family law, said that during her detention she was told police had “intelligence” that she had played a part in the kidnapping.

Former Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson investigated Mrs van der Lenden’s case and found the decision to arrest her was “reasonable and proportionate under the circumstances”.

He also said he had not been shown any information that would indicate that either Mrs van der Lenden or her husband “are members of an illegal organisation or involved in criminality”.

Her solicitor Michael Brentnall has now written to current ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire asking him to re-examine the case in light of new information, including that British security services may had a role in gathering intelligence.

Mrs van der Lenden (69) says the entire episode damaged her reputation as a member of the judiciary.

After being suspended as a lay magistrate she was eventually reinstated.

“It ruined my career as lay magistrate, it ruined my reputation and as far as my husband is concerned, it caused lasting damage to his health.”

Although she eventually resumed her work she said it “extraordinarily difficult to walk back into the youth and family court” after she had been arrested.

She added: “I accept the police have a responsibility to act on intelligence but they also have a duty of care to the public.

“Their intelligence had been malicious, ill-founded and mistaken.

“Could they actually believe I was a member of the IRA, that my husband, an unwell Dutch national, was in the IRA, he could not even spell Oglaigh na hEireann”.

Her son Ciaran, who is currently studying law, said his mother needed to have her name cleared and believes the arrests were carried because of his membership of RNU.

“If you kidnap children for money your days as a credible spokesperson are over,” he said.

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