– Who held Kevin McGeever in a dark room for eight long months? (Independent.ie, Feb 3, 2013):
Locals say developer is just as mysterious as his bizarre abduction
THE enigma of the Irish property developer who claimed he was held captive for eight months and tortured deepened this weekend as more details emerged about his bizarre ordeal.
Kevin Michael McGeever was found wandering by the side of a Leitrim road last Tuesday, confused, emaciated, barefoot, with long fingernails and a lengthy beard. It soon transpired he was a wealthy property developer who sold apartments in Dubai and who was reported missing more than eight months ago.
The strange story of the kidnapped developer has captivated the media. Reports said he identified his abductors as Russian mafia who took him at gunpoint, that the word “thief” was carved into his forehead and that he had been starved to the point of malnutrition. However, according to garda sources, Mr McGeever has not nominated any suspects and the inscription on his forehead was written with ink that will fade in time.
Mr McGeever, 68, who remains in hospital in Mullingar this weekend, has been interviewed by detectives, but sources said he is still confused since his ordeal and that his recall is vague.
It appears the only thing Mr McGeever has been able to tell them with certainty was that he was taken on May 27 last year from the mansion he built in Craughwell, Co Galway.
After that, all he can remember is that he was held in a dark room but could not say whether he was tied up, and that his captors came and went with food, such as sandwiches, and water. As for his release on to a rural road in Leitrim, he told gardai that he “found” himself on the roadside, but has so far been unable to tell them how he got there.
His muscle wastage and some slight injuries indicate he was held captive for a period, but gardai are still trying to figure out who may have kidnapped him and where he was held. Apart from a plastic sheet wrapped around him as he wandered on the rural road, his only possession was a brand new mobile phone which had no call history.
The mystery of Mr McGeever’s abduction and his sudden return has baffled detectives, who are now delving into his past for clues.
Mr McGeever was raised on a farm in Swinford, Co Mayo, where locals recalled little about him. He went to school locally and was thought to have picked up some building skills from his father, who did some construction work in the area. According to one local man, he left the area in the 1960s, moving abroad, and only returned home sporadically.
His parents are dead, but some siblings still live in the region. “The thing is that nobody, but nobody, heard that he was missing,” said one local man.
It is thought that he spent some time in America before moving to Dubai when the country opened up to investment by foreigners. In 2002, the authorities relaxed the rules to allow non-emirati citizens to buy freehold properties.
Mr McGeever clearly spotted his opportunity. He set up KMM International Properties and a complementary website and began selling apartments to Irish investors.
According to one source, he sold apartments off the plans, holding “property expos” in various hotels around the country. In 2007 he organised one at the Radisson in Sligo. The Roscommon People published a feature of the expo, in which Mr McGeever offered a preview of what was on offer: apartments from €99,000, including parking spaces and legal fees, with “seven exclusive developments” to choose from and “prime location office space” in Dubai’s business district. He told the newspaper that the demand for freehold properties in Dubai was “simply phenomenal”.
Mr McGeever enjoyed the trappings befitting a wealthy Irish property developer, although it seems his business interests were mostly abroad. He was not registered as a director of any Irish companies.
He built a mansion in Craughwell, one so extravagant that locals nicknamed it “Nirvana”. He also lived in a property in Clontarf, which he is said to share with his partner, Siobhan O’Callaghan, who would later report him missing.
Locals in Galway say he was an “elusive” character who enjoyed his wealth. At different times he drove a Ferrari, a Porsche and a CL63 Mercedes, according to one local. One man recalled how the number plates were KMM1 and KMM2. He also either owned or had the use of a helicopter.
But Mr McGeever was not immune to the collapse of the property market here.
His brother, Brendan McGeever, who lives in Mayo, was unable to shed light on his business affairs. When the Sunday Independent asked him about their relationship, he replied: “I don’t live in his back pocket. I never got involved with him or his business. We have separate lives.”
Had he ever discussed any difficulties he may have had?
“He never told me about anything like that. I didn’t go into his business dealings. He would call me from time to time and tell me he was in London or in Dublin Airport.”
Mr McGeever told detectives that he was taken from his home in Craughwell on last May 27. His partner, Ms O’Callaghan, was apparently the last person to have seen him. She reported him missing to gardai on June 22.
Usually, gardai look for public assistance when people go missing by issuing appeals for information, but Ms O’Callaghan did not want publicity about Mr McGeever’s disappearance.
Gardai made several attempts to track him down, contacting his family first. Brendan McGeever told of how he learned of his brother’s disappearance.
“A policeman rang me from Gort station at one stage and asked me if I knew where he was. I told him I didn’t,” he said. They also spoke to acquaintances of Mr McGeever in Galway, who had been asked by an intermediary to look after his Porsche.
There were no other leads until 10pm on Tuesday night when Catherine Vallely, a writer, and her partner, Peter Reihill, were driving home to Leitrim and came across a man on the road between Swanlinbar and Ballinamore.
Ms Vallely told a reporter last week: “There was this person in the middle of the road who had a flashing light. He had red trousers that made me think at first it was a cone in the middle of the road.
“There are hippy campers and a Buddhist centre in Ballinamore and I sometimes pick them up and give them a lift. This man asked us to ring directory inquiries and get a number for his friend. I can’t remember the name he gave us for his friend, but in any case directory inquiries didn’t have a number.
“Then he contacted some other friend and I spoke to him and he mentioned that they would meet in an hotel. I thought, there’s no way a hotel would let this man inside their door, so I suggested to the friend that we could drive to the Tesco car park in Carrick-on-Shannon and we could meet there.”
Mr McGeever had reportedly asked them not to take him to a garda station, but they were concerned and stopped at the station in Ballinamore. He was given tea and biscuits and curry chips while gardai checked his details. They discovered he had been reported missing in Gort more than eight months before.
Ms Vallely gave a vivid description of Mr McGeever’s “enormous eyes in a very thin face” and his cheekbones which “stuck out”.
“He was rubbing his beard with fingers that had long nails,” she said. “He was very well educated, well spoken and polite and articulate.”
He told her that he had been “in a van and three people had thrown him out because of mistaken identity”.
He was so physically depleted that he was admitted to hospital in Mullingar where he was treated for malnutrition and dehydration.
Detectives have spoken to him several times, but according to sources he is confused and vague about what happened to him as a result of his ordeal.
He was unable to say who had taken him, least of all the Russian mafia.
He could not say where he was held, other than in a dark room. He could not see his captors, who brought him food and water, and was unable to describe how he came to be released.
The acquaintance he contacted through Ms Vallely was unable to shed any light on what had happened to Mr McGeever when he was contacted by detectives. They will now turn to his mobile phone in the hope that at least it may help to establish the location where he was held.
Gardai in Gort have appealed to the public for information that may help their investigation into Mr McGeever’s abduction. Anyone with information is asked to contact Gort garda station at 091 636400.