Plus: the sad, sordid fate of Shergar.
The thing I most regret having failed ever to ask brave, haunted, wise Sean O’Callaghan when I last saw him at a friend’s book launch was ‘So tell me about Shergar.’
It has long been known, of course, that the legendary racehorse — one of the five greatest in the last century, according to Lester Piggott who rode him to victory in the Irish Derby — was kidnapped in 1983 by the IRA and never seen thereafter. What I didn’t realise, till after O’Callaghan died last year, was that the ex-IRA man is the only insider ever to have gone on the record as to his fate.
Turns out that poor Shergar was executed within hours. According to O’Callaghan’s version, the horse panicked, fracturing a leg, and his captors, incapable of dealing with a highly strung thoroughbred, shot him to put him out of his misery. Another, anonymous version once relayed in the Sunday Telegraph has it that the kidnappers realised they were never going to get their £2 million ransom but couldn’t release the horse because the property of the IRA man in charge of the operation was under heavy surveillance. So they machine-gunned him: ‘There was lots of cussin’ and swearin’ because the horse wouldn’t die. It was a very bloody death.’
On Searching for Shergar (BBC2, Sun), filmmaker Alison Millar offered us few new leads and no body. But her moving documentary was none the worse for being melancholy, meandering, unresolved.
Read the rest in the Spectator.