Jim Mansfield 3

'Jimmy' Mansfield: The school drop-out who turned to notorious terrorists to win back business empire

The economic collapse in 2008 almost destroyed the once powerful Mansfield business empire but self-described “school drop out” Jim Mansfield Jnr was determined to get back what he had lost. In his efforts to do so, he turned to notorious terrorists Dessie O’Hare and Declan ‘Whacker’ Duffy for help, setting in motion a chain of events that would see the property magnate jailed by the Special Criminal Court.

“Jimmy” Mansfield, the non-jury court was told, was a jolly man with a “child-like innocence”. His enthusiasm and personable nature saw people from West Dublin “speak very highly” of him, his defence counsel had submitted.

He also had difficulties with dyslexia and went through an “unorthodox education” where he did not complete his State examinations, instead leaving school early and to assist his father in business.

At one point in the trial, Mansfield’s former security guard Martin Byrne said that a note handed to one of his kidnappers couldn’t have been written by Jimmy “as he didn’t write”. Mr Byrne denied this was “a dig” at the accused.

Mansfield previously used dissident Republican paramilitaries when a Traveller gang started demanding money for the repayment of debts they alleged were owed. But it was his bringing Duffy and O’Hare in to help retrieve lands, including the Citywest Hotel in Dublin, that finally brought into the public domain the link between Mansfield Jnr and some of Ireland’s most notorious criminals.

The plan, according to the judgement delivered by the Special Criminal Court, was to use terrorist groups to regain properties once owned by the Mansfields in Citywest in Dublin. The Mansfields had lost the Citywest Hotel following the crash but intended to recover neighbouring properties to use as ransom strips to regain what they had lost.

Martin Byrne, a former security guard for Mansfield, warned his then boss of the dangers of getting involved with men like Duffy and O’Hare.

But Mansfield told him he “did not really care and was going to get back what was his.”

Mr Byrne gave direct evidence in Mansfield’s trial and is now in the witness protection program to protect himself and members of his family from a threat against their lives.

The men that Mansfield chose to associate with are dangerous criminals with a long history of violence.

Dessie O’Hare, once known as the Border Fox, is a lifelong criminal and former terrorist who once boasted to a journalist that he had murdered 26 people.

In 1988 he was sentenced to 40 years imprisonment for falsely imprisoning and assaulting Dublin dentist Dr John O’Grady, causing him grievous bodily harm. O’Hare was released in 2006 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

O’Hare kidnapped Dr O’Grady from his home in Cabinteely on October 13, 1987 and held him captive for 23 days. During that time O’Hare chopped off the tips of Dr O’Grady’s fingers while demanding a ransom of IR£1.5m. Gardai freed Dr O’Grady following a shoot-out in the Dublin suburb of Cabra. One officer was shot and seriously wounded.

In 2010, Duffy was sentenced to life imprisonment for the 1992 murder of British army officer Sergeant Michael Newman but was released on license by a Northern Irish parole board in March 2013.

Arising out of his involvement with Mansfield, he was arrested by gardai on December 5, 2015, and later jailed by the Special Criminal Court for six years for falsely imprisoning Martin Byrne in Rathcoole, Co Dublin on June 9, 2015.

Following that conviction the Under Secretary of State for Northern Ireland revoked Duffy’s license and recalled him to prison in the UK.

The court heard evidence of how these two notorious criminals were hanging around Mansfield’s properties as their involvement deepened.

While the court found Mansfield not guilty of the most serious charge against him of conspiring to kidnap Martin Byrne, they did note that Mansfield lied about what Duffy and O’Hare were doing and about his own knowledge of their involvement.

Going over the evidence that the court accepted, Mr Justice Owens said that on June 9, 2015 at an office at Keating Park belonging to Mansfield, a criminal gang led by Dessie O’Hare and Declan Duffy kidnapped Martin Byrne.

Mr Byrne had been asked to attend the meeting by Mansfield and believed that it would be attended only by himself, Mansfield and O’Hare.

When Mr Byrne arrived Duffy was there and then several other men arrived. In front of Mansfield, the men searched Mr Byrne’s pockets. When Mr Byrne confronted his boss, telling him he had set him up, Mansfield did not respond.

The men then forced Mr Byrne into a car and took him to his home at The Towers, a property owned by Mansfield and adjoining a house used by Mansfield known as Tassagart House. Mr Byrne had been living at The Towers rent-free for some time and was an employee of Mansfield and another named man. Mr Byrne was twice punched in the face during the drive to the Towers.

Having gained access to The Towers, some of the kidnappers assaulted a security guard who had refused to open the gate and then warned Mr Byrne that he was next. He was again struck on the face and held inside his home until gardai, who had no idea what was going on, arrived in an unmarked car.

The kidnappers cleaned blood off Mr Byrne’s face with a towel and told him to get rid of the gardai or he would get “a bullet in the head”. Mr Byrne went outside and told gardai that Dessie O’Hare was in the house and that he might be armed.

Most of the gang, including Duffy and O’Hare, escaped through the back of the house. Some days later Mansfield spoke to Patrick Byrne, a brother of Martin who was employed to look after CCTV at Finnstown House. The court accepted that Mansfield told Mr Byrne to destroy CCTV footage showing Mansfield meeting with Martin Byrne on the morning of the kidnapping. The footage also showed the two men leaving together.

The judge said that Mansfield wanted to destroy the record of the footage because it “connected him to the events on that date” and because he “wanted to distance himself from the activities of the gang.”

However, the court found that the evidence was “insufficient to establish that he deliberately lured Martin Byrne” to be kidnapped and with a view to forcibly removing him from his home.

Mr Justice Owens said the court could not exclude the possibility that O’Hare misled Mansfield or that Mansfield was not privy to the plan between O’Hare and Duffy to kidnap Mr Byrne. He said there was “possible animus” between Mr Byrne and the two criminals following a meeting earlier the same year that had ended badly.

Mr Justice Owens said that the fact Mansfield did not contact his former employee following the kidnap was “shoddy and selfish” but provided only weak support for the prosecution’s claim that it showed he was aware in advance that Mr Byrne would be kidnapped.

The court found that Mansfield was not telling the truth when he claimed to have had only limited interactions with Duffy and O’Hare.

He said that Mansfield was aware that the New IRA and INLA had dealt with threats from Traveller gangs who claimed the Mansfields owed them money.

The court also found that Mansfield was involved with Duffy and O’Hare in his efforts to recover assets lost during the crash. Mr Justice Owens said he was satisfied that the activities of the New IRA and INLA “were not taking place without Mr Mansfield’s knowledge and approval”.

Mr Justice Owens said the involvement of “dangerous players” like O’Hare and Duffy meant it was unlikely Mansfield would give an honest account when questioned by gardai, but any lies he told were not sufficient to establish that he was guilty of involvement in a plot to kidnap Mr Byrne.

Terrorist groups became involved, the court said, when efforts were being made to recover properties once owned by the Mansfields in Citywest in Dublin. The Mansfield’s had lost the Citywest Hotel following the crash but intended to recover neighbouring properties, including an area known as Paddy Reilly’s field, to gain leverage in getting back the hotel.

The court noted that Martin Byrne had said that he was present at a meeting in May 2015 attended by Mansfield, O’Hare and Duffy in which Duffy said that they were there to get back properties for Jim Mansfield.

The court further accepted Martin Byrne’s evidence that he warned Mansfield about the dangers of getting involved with these men and that Mansfield replied that he “didn’t care and was going to get back what was his.”

  • Become a Courts News Ireland Subscriber

    Sign-up today for full reports on the proceedings of the Central Criminal Court Ireland, the Special Criminal Court, the Court of Criminal Appeal and High Court extradition.

    As a subscriber, you'll have priority access to the full stories as soon as they are filed.

    If you represent a company or institution interested in subscribing to Courts News Ireland, please contact enquiries@courtsnewsireland.ie for more information about Group Subscriptions.

    If you're a newspaper professional or broadcaster interested in acquiring a licence to publish our content, please click subscribe and select the "Publisher's Account" option to have a Courts News Ireland representative contact you.