Page last updated at 13:34 GMT, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 14:34 UK

Maze escaper in Tidey kidnap trial

By Diarmaid Fleming
BBC NI Dublin correspondent

Brendan McFarlane, pictured in 2003
Brendan McFarlane is a former IRA leader and Maze prison escapee

The trial has opened in Dublin of the Maze escaper and former IRA leader Brendan McFarlane on charges in connection with the kidnapping of English supermarket executive Don Tidey almost 25 years ago.

The accused denies charges of possession of firearms, intent to endanger life and unlawful imprisonment.

Prosecution senior counsel Edward Comyn told the three judges at the non-jury Special Criminal Court in Dublin that Don Tidey was kidnapped at gunpoint by men dressed in garda uniforms near his home in Rathfarnham in Dublin on 24 November, 1983.

He said that Mr Tidey was leaving his daughter Susan to school when he stopped at a fake checkpoint. His son Alistair was following him in another car and stopped behind him, preventing Mr Tidey from reversing to escape after one of the kidnappers pointed a gun at him.

The children were released but Mr Tidey was taken in a van to a hideout by the gang which was "highly organised".

After being told he had been kidnapped, his captors said a demand for money would be made.

"He was told his life would be in his own hands," Mr Comyn told the court.

In the hideout at Derrada Woods, near Ballinamore in County Leitrim, Mr Comyn said that Mr Tidey, who had been chained and manacled, was subject to a daily routine set out by his captors who showed "considerable discipline".

As the kidnap gang prepared to move, some of them were spotted and a shoot-out began in which an Irish Army soldier and garda died
"The group were well-organised and observed military discipline at all times. Everything was organised in advance," said Mr Comyn.

The court was told that the kidnappers had ordered Mr Tidey to walk between kidnappers in front and behind if the gang had to leave the hideout.

On 16 December 2003, the voices of soldiers and gardaí who were searching for Mr Tidey and his kidnappers could be heard only "yards" from the hideout.

As the gang prepared to move, some of them were spotted and a shoot-out began in which an Irish Defence Forces soldier and garda died.

The gang escaped with a number of hostages including Irish soldiers, before taking their weapons and escaping in a car, despite a massive garda and army search.

The court was told that in the panic, an Irish soldier trained an automatic weapon in Mr Tidey who was dressed in paramilitary-like camouflage fatigues, placing the kidnap victim "in a very dangerous position," said Mr Comyn.

'Fingerprint evidence'

The soldier suspected he was one of the kidnappers and was "very suspicious as to who he was" before Mr Tidey's identity was confirmed.

Mr Comyn said the prosecution case against the accused would rest on witness accounts including Mr Tidey and his daughter Susan and son Alistair, and of police and soldiers involved in the operation to free him.

He also said that fingerprint evidence would be presented, which he said would link the accused to the hideout where Mr Tidey was held.

The prosecution barrister said Mr McFarlane's fingerprints were found on a milk carton, a plastic container and a pot in the hideout.

However, he said that due to the "lapse of time", some witnesses had died, and that the exhibits with the fingerprint evidence had been lost.

"Unfortunately… some of the effects have been lost. I have asked on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions to find why they were lost… but the fact is they are lost," he said.

The barrister also said that photographic evidence would be presented in court.

The case continues and will begin hearing from witnesses on Thursday.

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