Missing Irish tycoon found barefoot and starving with insult carved on forehead

Kidnappings for ransom are not unusual in Ireland and in the past were carried out by the IRA

A wealthy Irish property developer who was missing for eight months has finally been found wandering emaciated and dishevelled on a lonely country road.

The man, who was identified as Kevin McGeever, 68, had a lengthy beard, long fingernails and an insulting word carved into his forehead. He had also experienced dramatic weight loss. A woman who encountered him said: “We were told he used to be 16 and a half stone – he was just skin and bones now.”

Mr McGeever, went missing in June last year from his home in Galway. Previously he had enjoyed a conspicuously wealthy lifestyle,  living in a sprawling mansion worth an estimated €3m (£2.5m) and  travelling by helicopter and luxury cars, which include a Porsche and two Hummers.

Mr McGeever has a development company, KMM Commercial Properties, dealing mainly with properties in Dubai. He has  reportedly told police that he had been kidnapped and that a ransom was demanded for his release, but that he did not know whether one had been paid. He was initially reported missing by his partner, Siobhan O’Callaghan. He was found wandering on a road in Co Leitrim, around 10 miles from the border with Northern Ireland, on Tuesday night.

He was finally discovered, barefoot, by Catherine Vallely, 64, who said: “There was this person in the middle of the road who had a flashing light. He had red trousers that made me think it was a cone, at first, in the middle of the road. He said three men threw him out  of a van.”

She added: “He had a pair of enormous eyes in a very thin face and his cheekbones stuck out. He was  rubbing his beard with fingers that had long nails. He was very well-educated, well-spoken, and  polite and articulate.”

Mr McGeever was driven to Ballinamore police station in Co Leitrim where, saying he was starving, he was given tea, biscuits and curried chips while his details were checked.

When found he had a mobile phone and a torch, and was carrying a back bin-bag. He reportedly did not know which county he was in, or the time, date or month. A word had been carved on his forehead with a knife. He was taken to hospital in the town of Mullingar for treatment for malnutrition and dehydration.

A local councillor who spoke to witnesses said: “He was absolutely ravenous. He was extremely thin and not in great shape at all. He didn’t know where he was and had to be told he was in Leitrim.

“He told them he had been dropped off by a number of men in a van and he had been in the van for some time. So it certainly appears that he was being held against his will, and that is what he indicated. Where he has been for the past months is anyone’s guess, but it must be a great relief for his family.”

Kidnappings for ransom are not unknown in Ireland, though the idea of someone being held captive for so long is highly unusual. In the past kidnappings were occasionally carried out by the IRA.

In 1983 a supermarket executive, Don Tidey, was abducted and held, probably coincidentally, in the Ballinamore area while a ransom was demanded. Although he was found by search teams, a soldier and a police officer died in a shoot-out with the IRA as he was rescued from his ordeal.

While the idea of mainstream republican involvement in the McGeever case is not taken seriously, it is possible that republican dissidents might be involved. In some border areas dissidents and criminal gangs are both engaged in lucrative activities such as cigarette smuggling and fuel-laundering.

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