Roche held at gunpoint during Co Wicklow hotel robbery

Mon, Dec 15, 2008, 00:00

Minister for Europe Affairs Dick Roche was held hostage during an armed raid at a Co Wicklow hotel this morning.

During the robbery on the Druids Glen Marriott Hotel & Country Club, nine members of staff and guests were held hostage by three men, one of whom was armed with a sawn off shotgun. All three men were wearing balaclavas.

Mr Roche (61) who was with his official driver had a gun held to his back during the robbery.

The minister was approached by the gunman in the main lobby of the hotel and the raiders may not have recognised him, his spokesman said.

Speaking this afternoon, Mr Roche said: "Some of the young staff in the hotel were terribly upset. It was quite vicious, a young woman, having a sawn-off shotgun three or four inches from her face on a Monday morning. It was quite awful".

"I came out of the hotel and went out to my car. I was getting some papers in the back of the car. I just became aware of a fellow driving very close to the back of the car.

"I stepped back. I bumped into somebody and said 'excuse me'. I realised that the fellow was wearing a Balaclava.

"There were three of them. All of them wore balaclavas and one of them had a sawn-off shotgun. The fellow with the gun said: 'Give me your money. We want all my money."

"I said that all I had was what I had in my pocket. I then realised that they must have thought there was a cash deposit coming out of the hotel. I said: 'I think you have the wrong person. I am just a client in the hotel.'.

"The fellow behind me had the gun stuck into my shoulders. The other two fellows walked with my driver a little bit behind us.

"As I walked up to the reception I said to the receptionist: 'Don't be frightened, there is a robbery going on.' The poor kid was absolutely terrified. It was awful stuff. One of the gang ran around the bank and said 'give us the money'. All she had was the cashbox.

"They took that and started shouting at her 'Lie down, lie down. Where's the safe?'.

"I said to one of the guys that she couldn't lie down and give the safe and was told to shut up."

Mr Roche was forced into a room with his driver and other staff members.

"They manhandled and shouted at us in a way that was completely unnecessary.  They took everybody's mobile phones. But there were two phones that were kept. We phoned 999 and the gardai came in record time. We said there was a robbery going on in the Marriot Hotel that was still ongoing."

Mr Roche had been leaving for an engagement in the European Commission offices in Dublin city centre to debate Ireland’s future in Europe following last week’s summit of EU leaders in Brussels.

Gardaí at Bray are investigating the robbery. The raiders stole an undisclosed sum of money said to be in the region of €20,000. They left the scene in a dark coloured car, possibly a Volvo. No shots were fired and there were no injuries.

The Garda Air Support Unit was involved in the search for the getaway car.