Bank robbery 'witnesses' urged to come forward

A motorist could yield a clue to the identity of bank robbers who carried out a £200,000 (€293,000) hostage raid in Belfast, it emerged today.

Detectives also want to speak to a woman spotted near where an employee was ordered to drop off the cash before his partner and baby were freed.

The worker was ordered to fill a bag with money from the Ulster Bank branch at Carlisle Circus, north Belfast, yesterday.

While he was forced to go into work and obey instructions, his partner was tied up and one-year-old child held at their home in nearby Alliance Avenue.

They were only reeased when the rucksack filled with bank notes was abandoned on steps a short distance away in Henry Place.

Detectives today issued a new appeal for witnesses to contact them.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokeswoman said: “In particular they would like to hear from the driver of a metallic mint green coloured Fiat Bravo who drove into Henry Place to turn his car.

“Also, they would like to hear from a woman with long, light brown coloured hair who walked past the bank employee in Henry Place.

“Police are asking these people to come forward.”

The victim was woken by three men at his home early yesterday morning.

A hood was placed over his head and he was given a bag with which to remove money from the bank.

Police said the man left his home two hours after his ordeal began and emerged from the bank shortly after 10am with the money.

The raid bore parallels with the £26.5 million Northern Bank heist in December 2004, widely blamed on the IRA, and the up to £50 million raid on the Securitas depot in Kent this week.

But police have refused to suggest any paramilitary organisation may be involved in the north Belfast robbery.

The city’s Deputy Lord Mayor, Pat Convery, joined the condemnation of those behind the theft.

He said: “This has not been a victimless crime as the young family are left in shock tonight after being held hostage.

“This undoubtedly has been a very serious traumatic experience for the family and indeed the staff at the bank.

“It is paramount that the police are assisted with their investigations into this vicious crime to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice and not left free to carry out more such crimes.”

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