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1983: Police hunt Shergar's kidnappers

VIDEO : Report on the police hunt for Shergar

A nationwide hunt for 1981 Derby winner Shergar has begun in Ireland.

The prize stallion was kidnapped last night from stables in County Kildare owned by the Aga Khan and his family for 60 years.

The unidentified kidnappers - numbering at least six - told head groom James Fitzgerald they would telephone a ransom demand by lunchtime today but have still made no contact.

His trainer Michael Stoute said: "Shergar was the best horse I have ever trained and I only hope to God nothing happens to him."

Nicknamed "Shergar the wonder-horse", he has been valued by Lloyds of London at 10 million at stud and carried an insurance premium of 300,000 when he was in competition.

A bay colt with a distinctive white blaze, Shergar was named European Horse of the Year in 1981 and retired from racing that September.


He is owned by a syndicate including Islamic leader the Aga Khan.

The breeding season starts in a week's time and Shergar was due to start his second season as a stud - to mate with up to 55 mares.

So far his fertility rate has been impressive as 42 of the mares he covered last year are in foal and another has already given birth.

The kidnap - the first of its kind in Ireland - began when two armed and masked men burst into the home of Mr Fitzgerald at the Ballymany stud in Newbridge.

The raiders then locked Mr Fitzgerald's family in a downstairs room before forcing him - at gunpoint - to release Shergar from his security stable.

Then they pushed the horse and head groom into a horsebox and drove off.

Mr Fitzgerald was released four hours later and 40 miles away from the stud farm.

Detectives questioned him for several hours before putting listening devices in his home in preparation for further contact from the kidnappers.

In Context
A ransom of 2m was phoned though on the morning of 10 February.

By the end of the day the ransom had dropped to 40,000, the equivalent of 1,000 for each of the 40 stakes in the horse.

All the shareholders refused to pay the money because they wanted to deter future kidnappings.

Numerous hoax calls and false alarms were received by the police and media about sightings of Shergar, dead and alive.

Insurers refused to pay out without evidence of the horse's death.

Shergar has never been found and his kidnappers have never been officially identified.

Most evidence points to the involvement of the IRA.

Sean O'Callaghan, a former IRA member turned informer, later wrote in his book The Informer that the horse had been killed by his abductors soon after he was taken because they were unable to handle him.

O'Callaghan said the IRA had demanded a 5m ransom from the Aga Khan that was never met.

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