An armed gang held a family with a young child hostage in a so-called tiger kidnapping as they launched a multi-million euro robbery at one of Bank of Ireland's flagship branches today.
The six strong gang forced a bank worker into the College Green offices in central Dublin as they held his girlfriend, her mother and her five-year-old granddaughter at gunpoint.
It is believed the gang escaped with up to 7 million euro (6.2 million) in cash.
The bank official was taken from his home in the rural Badger Hill area of Co Kildare, 15 miles (24km) south-west of Dublin, after raiders burst into the house at gunpoint yesterday evening.
The gang forced the man, aged in his late 20s, to drive into the city centre branch at dawn today and take bags of cash from the vaults and dump them at a drop-off point before the family was released.
Gardai said the man was not injured but the two women and young child were badly traumatised by the ordeal.
Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern was briefed on the heist by security chiefs at a lunchtime meeting with Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy.
Questions were being asked over security at the high-profile banking centre, in Europe's first purpose built House of Parliament, overlooking Trinity College, and how one employee had access to such large sums of money.
Bank of Ireland issued a short statement but refused to discuss how much money was taken.
"All of the people involved have been released unharmed and Bank of Ireland is currently investigating the incident," said a bank spokeswoman.
"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 as raiders stalk their target before launching an attack when the victim is most vulnerable, on this occasion as a keyholding bank worker enjoyed an evening with his girlfriend.
One car, the employee's Red Toyota Celica, registration number 99-D-88856, was recovered in the Clontarf area of north Dublin hours after the robbery.
It is believed the man drove the car load of cash to the nearby rail station between 7am and 9am.
Gardai appealed for anyone who may have seen the car to come forward.
They also wish to trace a Black Volkswagen Golf, registration 05-D-33720, which was taken from the house at Badgers Hill.
Gardai said the bank worker, his girlfriend and her mother were in the home with a five-year-old girl, believed to be the granddaughter, when the gang struck at around 6pm yesterday.
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 (22km) at around 9am today.