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Last Updated: Monday, 23 January 2006, 12:33 GMT
Rio gunmen target UK tourist bus
Rio de Janeiro
The tourists had just arrived in Rio
More than 30 elderly Britons robbed at gunpoint in Brazil showed "typical Dunkirk spirit" when their coach was stormed, their tour company has said.

The tourists - 31 British, one Irish and one Portuguese - were driving from Rio de Janeiro airport to their hotel when their coach was held up.

Four men took jewellery, passports and credit cards at gunpoint.

Horse Racing Abroad said: "Fortunately nobody was killed, hurt or injured, but obviously there was a lot of trauma..."

The group was midway through a two week horse-racing holiday in South America, and had only just arrived in Brazil.

Ian Fry, managing director of Horse Racing Abroad, based in Haywards Heath in West Sussex, said: "The coach was hijacked by four gunmen and taken off the main road.

"The people were then robbed basically. One of my directors was accompanying the group - she was held up at gunpoint."

We have never anything of this ilk before, nothing of this magnitude or type of terrifying experience for passengers
Ian Fry
Horse Racing Abroad

Mr Fry said the incident lasted about 30 minutes.

"You do not expect this sort of thing to occur on the main road from the airport to a five-star hotel. It would be like getting hijacked on the M4 from Heathrow to London.

"We have never anything of this ilk before, nothing of this magnitude or type of terrifying experience for passengers."

The group had been offered counselling, but no-one had taken up the opportunity.

"They have displayed typical British Dunkirk spirit about the whole thing," Mr Fry said.

"We have put bodyguards with the group but this is mainly for psychological reasons to make them feel more secure - we do not expect lightning to strike twice."

The robbery happened on Thursday night but details have only just emerged.

The group had attended races at courses in Argentina and on Saturday visited Brazil's Hipodromo de Gavea.

They will end their holiday on 26 January as planned, Mr Fry said.

Gunmen escaped

Earlier, a Foreign Office spokesman said one of the gunmen had boarded the bus.

"[He] held a gun to the driver's head. He ordered him to drive to a wooded area.

"When they arrived the men boarded and went through the bus collecting jewellery, passports and credit cards." the spokesman said.

After several minutes, the men escaped, he added.

Consulate staff helped the tourists apply for new passports and cancel their credit cards.

Roads linking Rio's international airport to the south zone has become notorious in recent years for carjacking and shootings.

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