Alan Harte was the man who used a knife to slash Kevin Lunney’s face in the back of the horsebox and to carve the letters “QIH” into his chest after the gang had kidnapped the businessman on his way home from work.
He was also the man who twice smashed a plank of wood into Mr Lunney’s shin, shattering the shin bone. He was also the man who had repeatedly threatened Mr Lunney and told him to resign from Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH).
Harte was also the only one of the three men convicted who was in regular contact with Cyril “Dublin Jimmy” McGuinness, the criminal who had organised the abduction, who died later when British police smashed their way into his north of England hideout.
During the abduction, Harte referred in “a sinister and intimidating way” to Mr Lunney’s daughter that gave a “particularly disturbing and chilling insight” into the minds of those involved, said Mr Justice Tony Hunt.
Harte’s most serious conviction prior to the Lunney kidnapping was for helping to dump the murdered body of his 28-year-old friend Peter Gunn in a ditch in January 2009.
Harte had been drinking with Gunn and an Albanian man named Kastriot Boza when Gunn was stabbed repeatedly in the chest and died. Harte took the stand in his defence and claimed Boza inflicted the fatal injuries.
Boza, who was a witness for the State, said he saw Harte stab Gunn. The jury found Harte not guilty of murder, but convicted him of impeding the Garda investigation by helping to dispose of the body.
During the Lunney trial, Harte’s lawyer, Michael O’Higgins SC, told the court that Harte’s background – one affected by the alcoholism and criminality of his father – “doesn’t excuse what he did, but it does “rationalise” it.
But in sentencing Harte for the Lunney kidnapping, Mr Hunt said Harte had already used his traumatic childhood as mitigation for his involvement in the Gunn case and could not use the same story again.
Harte was the one who had inflicted the most serious of the injuries on Kevin Lunney, said the judge, and that is why he received the 30-year sentence, the most severe sentence of the three men convicted.
Harte, the court was told, learned how to steal from his father, a drunk who brought his son on shop-lifting sprees to raise money for drink. Raised in Dublin’s Liberties, Harte’s childhood was marred by alcoholism and neglect.
Describing the deprivation at a sentencing hearing last year, Harte’s lawyers said his mother, a chronic alcoholic who was often committed to psychiatric units, would leave her son alone for days on end.
When she was home, she was prone to unpredictable violent outbursts. Harte has not spoken to his mother since 2008. Besides bringing his son on shop-lifting sprees, Harte’s father had only sporadic involvement in his child’s life.