Shergar became one of the most famous race horses in the British Isles in the early 1980s after he won two of the most prestigious events in the same year: the Irish Derby and the (British) Epsom Derby. Owned by an Ireland-based syndicate of extremely wealthy individuals including the Aga Khan Shergar looked set for a lucrative career and the kind of fame that a few racehorses occasionally achieve in this country.

However this never came to pass. In 1983 Shergar vanished overnight from his stable at the Ballymena Stud in Co. Kildare, Ireland. Within a couple of days the owners' syndicate received information from the IRA claiming that they'd kidnapped (horsenapped?) Shergar and that he would be returned on payment of a ransom of some £3.9 million. A massive police investigation followed but no trace of the horse could be found and the owners refused to pay the required ransom, despite threats that he would be killed if the money wasn't forthcoming.

Despite massive publicity and a cross-border police hunt, Shergar was never found, and gradually the investigation was scaled down. Around ten years later an IRA supergrass, Sean O'Callaghan claimed that the kidnap had been bungled from the start. Shergar had apparently "thrown himself into a frenzy" almost as soon as the kidnappers forced him into the horse box and broken one of his legs: his kidnappers were unable to control him and were forced to shoot him within a couple of days of the kidnap. This didn't stop them demanding nearly £4 million in ransom money however.

In April 2000, an intriguing find refreshed the memory of Shergar amongst the public. A horse's skull was discovered concealed in a sack in a remote valley near Tralee, Co. Kerry. What's more the skull had two bullet holes between the eye sockets -- yet standard practice when putting down a horse is a humane single bullet behind the ear. Laboratories prepared to run DNA tests, but a preliminary examination of the dead horse's teeth showed that it was only two years old when it died; Shergar was over five.

To date Shergar's remains have never been recovered and with very few exceptions none of the men involved in the kidnap have ever spoken out.

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