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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 December, 2004, 11:26 GMT
Bank 'to bear impact' of raid
Police have launched a major inquiry into the raid
Police have launched a major inquiry into the raid
The Australian owners of the Northern Bank have said they will bear the cost of a 22m robbery in Belfast.

The raid at the bank's headquarters in Donegall Square West is thought to be one of the biggest cash robberies in the UK.

The families of two bank executives were held hostage for 24 hours.

The National Australia Bank confirmed that initial audits showed that about 22m was seized by the gang.

The bank said the robbery would have no knock-on effect for the sale of the Northern to the Danish Danske Bank Group announced earlier this month.

In a statement on Wednesday, the bank said: "The theft is covered by self-insurance, and as such, National Australia Bank, which currently owns Northern Bank, will bear the impact of any losses arising from the theft."

Belfast bank raid map

The bank said customers would not be affected.

Meanwhile, detectives investigating the muiti-million pound theft are examining a burnt out car.

The car was found on Tuesday at Drumkeeragh Forest Park between Castlewellan and Ballynahinch in County Down.

The discovery was made after the families of two Northern Bank executives were taken hostage on Sunday night and held for 24 hours.

It is thought the two bank officials, from Downpatrick, County Down, and Poleglass near Lisburn, went to work on Monday while their families were being held captive.

They were released once the robbery was reported at about 2345 GMT on Monday.

I have been informed that the sum involved is quite considerable and may be in excess of 20m
Sam Kinkaid
Assistant Chief Constable

It is understood that no-one was injured but one person was treated for hypothermia.

It has been reported that a female hostage was left in the forest on Monday night.

She walked through the forest to a house for help, and was suffering from exposure as a result of her ordeal.

The building at the centre of the robbery houses the bank's cash centre, where tens of millions of pounds were believed to have been stored.

Retailers' Christmas takings and money to be distributed to cash dispensers for the last-minute shopping rush would be held in its underground vault.

2002: $6.5m in cash stolen by gang from a security van at Heathrow Airport.
1990: 292m in bonds stolen in the mugging of a City financial messenger.
1987: Over 10m worth of goods stolen from a safe deposit box warehouse in Knightsbridge.
1983: 26m in gold bullion and diamond stolen in Brinks Mat robbery.

On Tuesday, Assistant Chief Constable Sam Kinkaid said a well-organised criminal gang was involved.

He said it was "far too early" to say whether they had "any connections to a paramilitary group".

ACC Kinkaid added: "I have been informed that the sum involved is quite considerable and may be in excess of 20m."

Police officers took surveillance tapes from various cameras at the building, including ones outside the bank.

Detectives are studying CCTV footage in an attempt to trace the movements of the getaway van.

The external access point to the building from Wellington Street was cordoned off on Tuesday.

The Northern Bank has 95 branches and 30% of the market in Northern Ireland.

Gang in '20m' bank raid
21 Dec 04 |  Northern Ireland
Timeline: Northern Bank robbery
22 Dec 04 |  Northern Ireland
The human factor in bank robberies
21 Dec 04 |  Business
Northern Bank sold off
14 Dec 04 |  Northern Ireland

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