Member of Wealthy Guinness Family Kidnaped

Associated Press

Masked men kidnaped Jennifer Guinness, a member of one of Europe’s richest families, from her cliff-top mansion and are demanding millions in ransom, police said Thursday.

Police Supt. Frank Hanlon said that the victim, whose husband is a distant cousin of the Guinness brewery family, pleaded with the three kidnapers not to take her daughter and they left the young woman behind, bound hand and foot.

Authorities threw up roadblocks, launched a massive search in the Irish Republic and informed police across the border in Northern Ireland. Forty-five detectives, supported by hundreds of uniformed police, were assigned to the hunt.


Hanlon said that there are similarities between the abduction, which occurred Tuesday afternoon, and kidnapings by the outlawed Irish Republican Army, but that it might be the work of ordinary criminals.

“We are keeping an open mind about this crime,” he told a news conference.

Sympathizers Flushed Out

Police flushed out IRA sympathizers on both sides of the border, but there was no indication of any leads. Hanlon said there has been no contact with the kidnapers.

Guinness, 48, was taken from her pink Georgian-style house, which is set in 12 acres of land in the exclusive Baily Howth suburb and overlooks Dublin Bay. Before fleeing in a beige Toyota sedan, police said, the kidnapers told the victim’s husband: “Two million pounds or you will never see her again.” Two million Irish pounds is about $2.6 million.

A car of that description was found abandoned Thursday in Swords, a village near the Dublin airport and about five miles from the Guinness home. Police said they were examining it, but gave no further details.

Jennifer Guinness is married to John Guinness, 50, chairman of the Dublin merchant bank Guinness Mahon and Co. The Guinnesses, whose two main family branches are in banking and brewing, are among the richest families in Europe.

John Guinness returned home to find his wife, 23-year-old daughter Gillian and a visiting English book dealer, who was not identified, tied up and the kidnapers still in the house.

Police said he tried to snatch a gun from one of the intruders but was pistol-whipped across the face and then bound.

Two Other Children

Jennifer Guinness, a small woman who has two other children, pleaded with the kidnapers to leave Gillian behind and they did. “It may very well have been her mother’s plea that prevented her being taken,” Hanlon said.

John Guinness freed himself 2 1/2 hours after the masked men fled with his wife and a small amount of money stolen from the house. He was bruised, but not badly hurt, and he called police immediately, Hanlon said.

The commissioner said the kidnapers called their tall, well-built leader “colonel,” but there was no other evidence of a military link. He said the man spoke with an educated Dublin accent and wore a gray- and yellow-striped shirt.

In noting similarities to IRA actions, police cited the 1981 kidnaping of supermarket executive Ben Dunne and the November, 1983, abductions of chain store executive Don Tidey; the theft in February, 1983, of the prize racehorse Shergar, and the attempted kidnaping in August, 1983, of Canadian millionaire Galen Weston.

There were unconfirmed reports of substantial ransom payments in the Dunne and Tidey cases. A 2-million-pound ransom was demanded for Shergar and 80,000 pounds was paid, but neither the horse nor the ransom money has been found.

Friends of John and Jennifer Guinness have been quoted as saying they are wealthy but not multimillionaires.

His bank is a subsidiary of the family conglomerate Guinness Peat, which has interests in manufacturing, insurance and investment and is currently valued on the London stock market at more than 200 million British pounds ($292 million).

Both Guinnesses are avid sailors. Jennifer was a member of Ireland’s Admiral Cup team in 1975 on the yacht Assiduous and finished third in the All-Ireland Dragon Class yacht racing championship in Belfast Loch in 1979.

Fellow sailor Edna O’Coineen said of her longtime friend: “She would handle the ordeal quite well. She is a very competent lady.”