On Tuesday 8 February 1983, a foggy winter's evening in Kildare an armed and masked gang entered the home of Jim Fitzgerald, The Ballymany stud groom. It was an night that would go down in horseracing history .Shergar, the acclaimed racehorse, who had won the 1981 Epsom Derby by ten lengths, the greatest winning distance since records were established, was kidnapped.. The kidnappers loaded Shergar into a horse box and drove away, taking Jim Fitzgerald with them. It was a number of hours before the Gardaí were finally informed of the kidnapping. From that day to this there has been no sign of the horse and no conclusive proof of what really happened to him. The mystery of exactly what happened to him after he was snatched that night still lingers.
The kidnapping of Shergar became a story that gripped the world. Everyone wanted to know who had taken Shergar, why they had taken him and what became of him. The world's media descended on Kildare hungry for information. Superintendent James Murphy who was put in the charge of the investigation was in no mood to give them any. . He once famously told journalists: "A clue? That is something we haven't got." And it appeared that the Gardaí didn't have a clue as to his whereabouts. A number of crank and hoax calls bedeviled the Gardaí even further. Clairvoyants and psychics were used in the search. Rumours abounded, with the IRA, Colonel Gadaffi and the Mafia featuring among them. Shergar's racing career was short but incredibly successful and lucrative. He banked nearly £500,000 in prize money before he was retired to stud at Ballymany in October 1981, to local elation. A syndicate headed by the Aga Khan was able to charge up to £80,000 a time for Shergar's services. He covered 35 mares in his first season with a further 55 planned for 1983, but all that changed on that February night in 1983.
The Gardaí investigation was fraught with problems from the outset. Shergar was taken on the day of a big horseracing sale at Goff's - a day on which horseboxes were driven on roads across the country, making an impossible task to find the box containing Shergar. The kidnappers failed to recognize that the horse was owned by a syndicate and not just the Aga Khan, which made negotiations much more difficult. One common factor in most of the conspiracy theories was the probable involvement of the Provisional IRA. This view was given greater weight in the 1990s when the IRA member, turned informer, Sean O'Callaghan alleged that the paramilitary group was behind the kidnapping. Whatever happened to Shergar, one thing is certain the theories and debate surrounding his disappearance will rage for many years to come.
'The best thing to do, or so I thought, was to give them the number for Michael Noonan, the Minister for Justice, so I handed over the problem, and I went back to sleep' - Alan Dukes
'I remember one particular incident when a huge crowd of British journalists were gathered around him down in Naas and they asked him, "What exactly are you looking for Chief Superintendent"? And he answered, "A horse". - Liam Cahill, former RTE Correspondent
'After being kidnapped there is a strong possibility that he got injured or that he became unmanageable and someone decided to put him down and I would like to think that was done humanely' - Tracy Piggott RTE Sports Presenter