On a February evening in 1983, Jim Fitzgerald and his son, Bernard, were at home enjoying a quiet evening. They heard a knock on the door, and Bernard opened it. Jim and Bernard were terrified when three masked men holding guns forced their way into the house. One of the men looked at Jim and said, “We have come for Shergar. We want £2 million in ransom for his return.
Who Is Shergar?
Shergar was one of the most successful flat-racing thoroughbreds during his time. In 1980, he won the Epsom Derby, which is one of Britain’s most prestigious races. He won by ten lengths, which is the most significant margin ever seen. After an incredibly successful career, Shergar retired and was sent to Ballymany, where he became a very valuable stud animal. He was owned by a man named Aga Khan, who was very wealthy and considered to be an important figure in the Islamic world.
When the men invaded Jim’s house, they marched him out to Shergar’s stable and loaded the horse into a trailer. They forced Jim into the car; the eight masked men took off. Jim had no choice but to go with the men because they had a gun on him the whole time. He was in fear for his life, and he was also worried about Shergar. He loved and respected the horse and didn’t want anything to happen to him.
Jim says that it was the longest ride of his life. He had no idea where he was being taken and what they were going to do with him when they got there. The men drove with Jim in the car for four hours before pushing him out of the car. He didn’t look around to see where he was; he was just happy that he wasn’t their prisoner any longer. When he realized that he was safe, he needed to find a ride back to his home so that he could tell the police what happened, if his son hadn’t already.
Before they released Jim, they told him not to contact the owner or the Irish police, or they would come back and kill him and his family. They told him to wait, and they would contact him later. They told Jim that when they called, they would use the code name, “King Neptune.” The members of the gang did not say who had sent them, but one of the men spoke with an Irish accent, which led the police to believe that he was a member of the IRA.
The night that Shergar was taken was the last time he was seen. Later that night, a phone call came in demanding £50,000 in ransom, which was much less than the original £2.5 million that they were asking. Around the same time, a suspect in the crime was named. It was believed that members of the Provisional IRA were involved.
An Overnight Sensation
The story of Shergar’s abduction got out quickly, and it became an overnight sensation. The British press headed to Ireland to get the story, and they wanted to speak to the lead investigator on the case, Chief Supt James “Spud” Murphy. Murphy was working hard to figure out where Shergar was. After confusing negotiations, the ransom wasn’t paid. A source close to the IRA claimed that to show how cruel they really were, the IRA shot the horse. When Jim heard this, he was furious. He told the press that Shergar was a grand horse and deserved better.
Shergar was insured through several different insurance companies. The Lloyd’s of London insurance brokers, Hodgson McCreedy, covered £3,625,000 of the total and added a theft clause to the policy. Other polices were taken out on the horse, but they didn’t include a theft clause. In 1983, all of the polices that did have a theft clause were paid.
Shergar’s body had never been recovered or identified. Several sources believe that the remains were buried on the farm of an IRA veteran from the 1940s, and it would be difficult and even impossible to get permission to dig on the land. There have been several claims that horse skeletons were uncovered and were believed to be Shergar. A horse specialist named Des Leadon has knowledge of equine pathology. When remains were discovered, Gardai called him to examine their remains.
Gardai still has some strands from Shergar’s mane and tail and may have enough DNA to make a positive identification. Unfortunately, the case is stalled, and to this day, what really happened to Shergar is still unknown. The real identity of the masked men is also unknown. Shergar was a sweet, gentle horse with an excellent reputation. It’s sad that his life came to such a tragic end. When Shergar the racehorse vanished 36 years ago, it sparked a mystery that still hasn’t been solved.