AN ARMED gang forced a bank worker into Dublin's flagship branch of the Bank of Ireland and escaped with up to £6.2 million in cash.
Police have refused to confirm the precise sum stolen, however, Irish media report that 7 million was stolen from the branch of the bank in College Green overlooking Trinity College early yesterday. It is thought that the Garda Siochana could now be investigating the biggest cash robbery in the history of the Republic.
The six-strong gang, staging what is nicknamed in Ireland as a "tiger kidnapping", held the bank worker's girlfriend, her mother and her five-year-old granddaughter at gunpoint on Thursday night.
The bank official, who has not been named, was taken from his home in the rural Badger Hill area of Co Kildare, 15 miles south-west of Dublin, after raiders burst into the house at gunpoint yesterday evening. The gang forced the man, aged in his late twenties, to drive into the city centre branch at dawn yesterday, take bags of cash from the vaults and dump them at a drop-off point. Only then was his family released.
The two women and the child were held hostage overnight at an unknown location near Dublin before walking into a Garda station in Ashbourne, Co Meath, 14 miles north of the capital at about 9am yesterday. It is believed the man's partner was beaten before the family was driven away in their car.
Gardai said the man was not injured but the two women and the young child were "badly traumatised" by the ordeal.
Dermot Ahern, the Irish minister for justice, was briefed on the heist by security chiefs at a lunchtime meeting with Fachtna Murphy, the Garda Commissioner.
Questions are now being asked over security at the high-profile banking centre, in Europe's first purpose-built House of Parliament, and how one employee had access to such large sums of money.
In a short statement, Bank of Ireland said: "All of the people involved have been released unharmed and Bank of Ireland is currently investigating the incident. Bank of Ireland's priority is for the safety and wellbeing of the staff member and the family involved in this incident, and all of the bank's support services have been made available to them."
At least two cars and one van were used in the tiger kidnap – so-called because raiders stalk their target before launching an attack when the victim is most vulnerable.
On this occasion, the key-holding bank worker was ambushed as he enjoyed an evening with his girlfriend.
His red Toyota Celica was recovered in the Clontarf area of north Dublin several hours after the robbery.
It is believed that the bank employee drove the carload of cash to the railway station at Clontarf between 7am and 9am.
The incident is the second tiger kidnapping in the city over the past few months.
Five raiders kidnapped Peter Nevin, a director of the cash-in-transit firm GSLS, and his wife and adult daughter in December in a heist that netted more than 1 million.