Cross-Border hunt after €50,000 robbery

 

Police on both sides of the Border are hunting for a gang who held a family captive in a garage in Co Monaghan and made off with about €50,000.

The family of businessman Peter Martin (35) were at a friend's house yesterday recovering from their ordeal as detectives completed a technical examination of the crime scene.

Speculation about the possible involvement of dissident republicans in the robbery has increased following the discovery of the burnt-out vehicle used in the robbery in Forkhill, an IRA stronghold in south Armagh. However, a Garda spokeswoman yesterday denied that any particular avenue of investigation had being singled out.

The gang of five armed and masked men struck at Mr Martin's home in south Monaghan shortly before 11pm on Friday night.

They entered the house at Leonsbeg, four kilometres from Carrickmacross, and locked two women and five children inside the garage.

One of the women was Mr Martin's partner. The other woman was a relative who was visiting the house at the time. The women and children were warned not to raise the alarm or they would be "dealt with".

The raiders removed a safe from the house and made off with it in the owner's blue Mercedes van, which was later found burnt-out at Forkhill.

Mr Martin did not return until the early hours of the morning after the raiders had fled.

Initially, he did not notice there was a problem and fell asleep in front of the television.

At 6am, he discovered his family in the garage and raised the alarm with local gardaí. No-one was injured during the raid.

Yesterday, friends of the family said the raiders appeared to be familiar with the movements of the family and seemed to be aware that Mr Martin was not due to return until much later in the night. They spoke with south Armagh and north Louth accents.

A neighbour of the family said: "They underwent a terrible ordeal and didn't know what was going to happen to them at the time - this was something you would never expect in this area which is normally very quiet."

A senior detective said : "It appears to have been a well-planned operation and those responsible were obviously well-informed about the movements of the family concerned.

"The fact that there is a cross-Border link, as a result of the van being burned in the North, opened a new avenue to our investigation."

Meanwhile yesterday, Insp Jim Marks of Carrickmacross, who is charge of the investigation, said gardaí were appealing to anybody who noticed anything suspicious in the Carrickmacross area on Friday night or Saturday morning to contact them at Carrickmacross Garda station on 042- 96 90190 or the Garda confidential line at 1800 666 111.

In particular, he appealed for anyone who might have seen Mr Martin's Mercedes van, registration number 01-MN-2479, around this time.