The wife of a wealthy Dublin banker and member of the famed Guinness brewing family was kidnaped from her home Tuesday by masked gunmen who demanded a $2.6 million ransom, police in the Irish capital said today.
They said that three men abducted Jennifer Guinness, 48, from her home in a Dublin suburb. The men pistol-whipped her husband, John, 51, and left him, their 23-year-old daughter and a visiting friend tied up in the house. Police said there has been no communication from the kidnapers since then.
John Guinness is chairman of the Dublin-based Guinness and Mahon Bank. He and his wife are socially prominent yachting enthusiasts.
Suspicion immediately centered on the Irish Republican Army, which has staged similar kidnapings for ransom in Ireland. Police were known to be checking the homes and gathering places of known supporters of IRA groups.
But while he declined to rule out IRA involvement, Police Superintendent Frank Hamlon said at a Dublin news conference that he was keeping "an open mind."
Hamlon said the kidnapers spoke with "well-educated Dublin accents," which seemed to argue against IRA involvement. The IRA, fighting British rule in Northern Ireland, draws most of its activists from the northern province.
Sources familiar with IRA tactics said the fact that the gunmen had stopped to ransack the house and steal an undisclosed sum of money could point to nonpolitical criminals rather than the IRA.
Police sources said they were concerned that there had been no communication from the kidnapers. Hamlon said, "They mentioned a figure when they left the house. They didn't give any information as to how they would make contact. In fact, they haven't made contact."
The police said the gunmen demanded 2 million pounds, although it was unclear whether they meant Irish or British currency. The sum is about $2.6 million in Irish pounds, about $3 million in British pounds.
Irish police have advised the families of kidnaping victims not to pay ransom, and Dublin is known to be concerned that a series of such abductions in recent years may scare off foreign investment.
Police said that the gunmen, wearing ski masks and driving a Toyota, had forced their way into the Guinness home at midafternoon Tuesday. Jennifer Guinness was home with her daughter, Gillian. A friend, whom they described as an "English gentleman," arrived shortly thereafter, followed by John Guinness.
Police said that John Guinness attempted to tackle one of the intruders, all of whom were described as armed with either a pistol, a "large gun" or both, and was pistol-whipped across the face. He, his daughter and the visitor then were tied up with neckties, and the abductors made their escape.
Jennifer Guinness is English-born. Her husband's bank is a subsidiary of the Guinness Peat conglomerate, currently valued on the London stock market at more than $300 million. There is no business link between the banking side of the Guinness family and the better-known side that runs the two-century-old brewing company.