An armed gang got away with hundreds of thousands of euros in cash today after taking a bank worker’s wife hostage in a tiger kidnap.
The three man gang took the woman from her home in Templeogue, west Dublin at gunpoint in the early hours of this morning.
Gardai said one of the gang carried a firearm and the woman’s husband, an AIB employee, was ordered to carry out the theft.
It is believed about €300,000 was stolen.
The money was taken from the AIB Clondalkin village and a drop-off arranged before the man‘s wife was freed hours later near a quarry in rural Wicklow.
She had been released by the gang at about 12.45pm and sought help from a local resident in Ballybrew, Enniskerry.
The woman was driven from her home in a black 10-D registration Volkswagen Golf which detectives believe may have travelled on roads and motorways near both the Templeogue and Enniskerry areas throughout the morning.
It is understood the money was taken to a drop-off point in Clondalkin and that the gang may have been in the Corkagh Park area amid fears they were under surveillance.
Detectives were investigating whether the gang used a second car, a black Nissan Qashqai with a 08-D registration which may have been seen between between Templeogue, Corkagh Park and AIB Clondalkin from 7am.
Gardai said they were examining four scenes linked to the robbery and appealed for information about suspicious activity at the couple’s home on Domville Drive, Templeogue from 10pm last night or over the last few days.
The also asked for witnesses from the AIB in Clondalkin village in the morning from 8am, the quarry in Ballybrew and unusual or suspicious activity at or around Corkagh Park in the Clondalkin area.
Detectives were alerted to the kidnap and theft this the morning.
Under protocols agreed between banks, unions and the Garda, employees are obliged to contact the force in the event of a tiger-kidnap and before following the gang’s orders to hand over money.
A Garda spokesman said a comprehensive response team was put in place involving both local and national units to intercept the tiger-kidnap.
There have been four similar robberies this year.
In June a bank clerk was forced to take €200,000 from a Dublin branch of AIB after his friend was taken hostage from their home in Kiltipper.
In the previous month, a bank employee’s partner was taken from her Ballyfermot home while a gang ordered the employee to work at the Ulster Bank on Sundrive Road to carry out the theft.
In April two men abducted a bank official’s wife and attempted to rob a Bank of Ireland in Raheny. No money was stolen.
And in early January a security guard and two members of his family were taken hostage in an incident which led to the theft of more than €100,000.
Larry Broderick, general secretary of Irish Bank Officials Association (IBOA), said news of the raid will send a wave of concern among bank workers and their families nationwide.
“Bank staff are already under stress having to bear the brunt of public anger at the recklessness of bank bosses while at the same time facing the threat of substantial job losses as the price for the recklessness of others,” he said.
“Now they must also live in fear that they or their loved ones may be subjected to the trauma of being taken hostage as part of an armed raid on their workplace.”
Mr Broderick said the psychological damage from such a traumatic situation should not be underestimated.
“We will seek to ensure that proper counselling and other supports are made available to this family,” he added.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said banks, the bank officials association and gardai have put in huge efforts to prevent tiger kidnaps but revealed more could be done.
“This is something that I did raise with the heads of the banks, and something I suppose as a nation that we have to come to terms with, that we’re not as cashless a society as most of our European colleagues,” he said.
“If you go to other countries in Europe you’ll find that there is less cash swilling about the place than there is here in Ireland in proportion. We’re the only country in Europe that doesn’t charge for money coming out of the hole in the wall and that is something I think will have to be looked at.”
Meanwhile Fine Gael’s justice spokesman Alan Shatter said the tiger kidnap phenomenon was now all too commonplace.
“Despite the introduction of additional security measures, it is clear that bank employees and their families remain highly vulnerable to attack,” he said.
“This incident is a stark reminder of the lengths criminals will go to secure capital to advance their drug and other illegal operations.”
Charlie O’Connor, Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin South West, described the kidnap ordeal suffered by the woman as completely reprehensible and called on anyone with information to come forward.
“There is no place in society for such abductions and violence as a means to obtain money from financial institutions and I condemn these actions in the strongest possible terms,” he added.