Imagine…, a cold and dark night at Ballymany Stud Farm in Kildare-30 years ago from this month. Jim Fitzerald, the caretaker of the most valuable race horse of the time-Shergar-heard a loud knock on the door. Scared and startled, he was confronted by three masked gunmen.
The disappearance of Shergar, the pride of the Emerald Isle, would quickly become one of the most famous animal kidnapping cases in the world.
Shergar was the best race horse in the world in the 80’s and was owned by billionaire businessman, Aga Khan. He was worth an astonishing amount of money-almost £28 million-equivalent to $44 million by today’s standards. If Shergar were here today, he would have been the most valuable athlete in the world-ahead of Tom Brady, Michael Jordan, or Tiger Woods.
The champion colt had destroyed its competition in the field two years previously at Britain’s prestigious Epsom Derby, winning by 10 lengths-the biggest margin in the race’s 226 year old history. Unheard of to say the least! Shergar’s fast hoofs eventually made him the most sought out breeding stallion-who had had mated with 35 mares in his first season and was set to be worth millions more in the coming years for his offspring.
On February 8th, 1983, Fitzgerald was bundled into a car, driven around for hours, and warned not to call the police-before being dumped off a few miles from his home. Meanwhile, the beautiful stallion with a prominent white blaze on his face and four white socks was loaded into a horse box. The disappearance of Shergar was perfect timing, as Ireland’s major Goff race horse sale was the next day. Roads were lined with horse boxes, making the disappearance of Shergar an impossible case.
Over the next eight hours, a series of calls elapsed, before police were notified. The kidnappers involved in the disappearance of Shergar proceeded to negotiate over the next few days. However, the owner and additional syndicates refused to pay any ransom, fearing that it might encourage similar kidnappings.
The next Monday, a call was received saying that Shergar had an accident and was dead. That was the last that anyone heard of the kidnappers or saw the infamous Shergar.
Theories over over the kidnappers and the disappearance of Shergar have been plentiful-Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the IRA, and the US Mafia have all been suggested. However, the true fate of disappearance of Shergar in Ireland is unknown.
Shergar was a much loved horse and a celebrity in himself. He was the darling of the nation during the darkest days of the “Troubles.” The tragic news of the disappearance of Shergar shocked the country and will remain one of Ireland’s biggest unsolved mysteries. He was a star on the track and the image of him pounding over the hill at Epsom will be forever imbedded in the memories of many.