The wife of a member of the Guinness brewing and banking dynasty--one of Ireland's wealthiest families--was kidnaped by three masked gunmen demanding a $2.6- million ransom, police announced today.
Police said they were not ruling out the possibility that the outlawed Irish Republican Army was involved in the Tuesday kidnaping but said it appeared more likely to be the work of a criminal gang.
After a two-day news blackout, police said the gunmen abducted Jennifer Guinness, 48, from her luxury seaside home north of Dublin. The kidnapers pistol-whipped her husband, John Henry Guinness, chairman of the Guinness and Mahon merchant bank, and told him, "Two million pounds ($2.6 million) or you will never see her again," news reports said.
Dynasty Founded on Beer
The Guinness dynasty was founded 200 years ago by Arthur Guinness, who began making world-famous Guinness dark beer.
The family has since branched out into banking. Its members are at the center of Irish high society and the family is one of the richest in Europe, also known for introducing the now famous "Guinness Book of World Records" 30 years ago.
The IRA has turned to kidnaping in recent years in order to finance its military actions against British rule of Northern Ireland, but police said it was not immediately clear who was responsible for seizing Jennifer Guinness, English-born and a skilled yachtswoman.
"There was nothing in their demeanor that would indicate they were part of a paramilitary organization," Superintendent Frank Hanlon of the Irish police told a news conference.
He said the trio appeared to have "Dublin accents."
The men, wearing ski masks, approached the couple's home at Howth, a fishing village overlooking Dublin Bay eight miles north of Dublin, police said.
They knocked on the door and then burst in, holding Jennifer Guinness and a daughter, Gillian, 23, at gunpoint for about an hour until her husband arrived from his office.
"He was slightly injured in a struggle with the gunmen," Hanlon said. "He was struck on the face with a gun." An English business friend arrived at the house and was also held.
The gang spoke of taking Gillian as well as her mother but were apparently dissuaded by Jennifer Guinness' pleas not to do so, police said.
The gunmen tied up Guinness, his daughter and the friend and fled after demanding the $2.6 million, police sources said. The gang has not been heard from since.