Up to €7 million feared stolen in Dublin bank raid

 

Up to €7 million may have been stolen from a Dublin bank following a so-called tiger kidnapping in Co Kildare this morning.

The robbery from the Bank of Ireland branch in Dublin's College Green was described at a special garda briefing this afternoon as "an elaborate crime carried out by a team of ruthless criminals."

The money was withdrawn by a bank employee named as Shane Travers after his partner Stephanie Smith, her mother, Joan Smith and her five-year-old grandson were taken hostage at their house in Badgers Hill, Kilteel, Co Kildare.

At a briefing with media at Naas Garda Station this afternoon Supt John Gilligan of the Garda Press Office said the incident was well planned and said it was “comparable to any large-scale robbery that has ever taken place in this country.”

The garda investigation is being led by Supt Pat Mangan and Divisional Supt Michael Byrnes.

An incident room has been set up at Garda Divisional Headquarters in Naas and the investigation is being co-ordinated with Pearse Street Garda Station in Dublin.

The incident began when an armed gang of six men forced their way into the house when the two women and the child arrived home between 10pm and 10.30pm last night. Mr Travers was watching television in the house when the gang arrived.

The men were all wearing balaclavas, black clothing, gloves and spoke with Dublin accents. One of the men is described as being particularly well-built and has a physique likened by gardai to that of a body-builder.

At least three of the men were armed with handguns and gardai believe a shotgun may also have been used in the attack.

One of the hostages, Stephanie Smith, was injured after she was struck in the head with a vase by a gang member.

The four were held hostage overnight until 5.30am when the gang ordered the two women and the child into the back of a blue Peugeot Partner van. Gardaí say this van was fitted with false registration plates.

They were tied up and driven in the back of the van to The Rath near the Marriott Hotel in Ashbourne, Co Meath.

At 6.30am Mr Travers drove his red Toyota Celica to the Bank of Ireland branch in College Green. He drove through Inchicore, along the Quays and parked in his designated parking space at 6.58am.

Within 15 minutes he left the bank with what gardai described as four laundry bags and placed them in the car.

He then drove to Clontarf where at 7.30am he met a man wearing a baseball cap at the DART station. This man then took possession of the Toyota Celica at which point Mr Travers walked across the road to Clontarf Garda Station and reported the crime.

The car was later found burnt-out near the Tolka public house in Glasnevin.

The two women and the child managed to free themselves from the blue van and they walked into Ashbourne where they contacted gardaí at the local station shortly before 8.30am.

Gardaí said the family was traumatised as a result of the incident and Ms Smith had to receive medical attention for a head injury.

Supt Gilligan said gardaí are not sure if the man in Clontarf was part of the original six-man gang or was a seventh member. However, he said gardaí are convinced that other people “must be aware of what went on”.

Supt Gilligan said he was not in a position to detail the exact amount of money involved but confirmed that a “substantial amount” was taken in the robbery.

Gardaí are seeking two cars, a silver Volkswagen Polo (reg: 00-KE-2843) and a black Volkswagen Golf (registration number: 05-D-33720).

Both cars were taken from the house at Badgers Hill yesterday morning and gardai have called on members of the public who may have seen any of the vehicles in question to contact the incident room at Naas or Pearse Street Garda stations.

In a statement issued yesterday The Bank of Ireland said it was investigating the incident and added that its priority is for the safety and well-being of the staff member and family involved.

It said its support services have been made available to the victims and that it will be making no further comment "until it is appropriate to do so".

Earlier today the Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern met Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy and senior management to review the incident and to look at procedures in place in relation to bank security.

Last night's incident is the second such kidnapping in the area in recent months. In December, at least five raiders entered a house and threatened a husband, wife and one adult daughter in the house. The gang broke into the home of Peter Nevin, a director of cash-in-transit firm GSLS, just off the Maynooth to Celbridge road in Co Kildare.

He was taken to his work premises in the Bluebell area of Dublin, where a sum of more than €1 million was reportedly stolen.