Northern Ireland news

Kidnapper linked to dissident group returned to prison

Ciaran 'Zack' Smyth who has been returned to prison after his licence was revoked.

A FORMER IRA man, who was jailed for a violent robbery on an elderly couple, has been returned to prison after being linked to threats to mainstream republicans.

Ciaran 'Zack' Smyth, originally from the Short Strand but with an address in west Belfast, was arrested and returned to prison on Friday.

A former IRA blanket man he was convicted and sentenced to 12 years for a robbery in 2013, during which an elderly couple and their son were terrorised by three masked men claiming to be loyalist paramilitaries.

The couple aged 76 and 82 were threatened at gunpoint and tied up in the kitchen of their home at a rural location between Ballynahinch and Carryduff.

The elderly man was kicked several times in the face and one of the robbers threatened to cut his son's fingers off with a kitchen knife.

The three escaped with a wallet, his Rolex watch and other valuables including a significant sum of cash and a Mercedes car belonging to the family.

Police later pursued the car after it was spotted on the Malone Road in south Belfast. It had been reported stolen after the family managed to free themselves 45 minutes later and raise the alarm.

After a high speed chase the three made off on foot. Smyth was seen coming out of a garden on Upper Malone Road.

When he was arrested there were banknotes sticking out of his trouser leg and silver duct tape, such as that used in the robbery, adhered to the sole of his shoe.

Money was found in his pockets as were cheques relating to the incident at the house in south Belfast totalling nearly £5,000. When cautioned he replied “I want to see my solicitor”.

Blood recovered from the blade of a kitchen knife matched Smyth's DNA as did DNA profiles obtained from black gloves and a baseball cap found in the Mercedes car.

He received a 14 year sentence. His co accused Eamonn O'Boyle was sentenced to 16 years. The third robber was never captured.

Despite the offence not being political Smyth served his time in Roe House, the separated wing of Maghaberry prison with dissident republican prisoners.

He was released on licence last year having served half of his jail term.

Sources say he was linked to threats made to senior republicans by the New IRA, including Michelle O'Neill and Gerry Kelly, and that there concerns that Smyth presented a threat to the safety of a number of people.

Saoradh, widely believed to be the political wing of the New IRA, said Smyth was a member of their organisation and that "no further details have been made available to either his legal team or his family".

The Northern Ireland Office declined to comment last night saying it could not discuss individual cases.

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