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Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
Clown gang hold up pub
Clown masks
Three robbers disguised themselves as clowns
A gang of robbers dressed as clowns tied up a shopkeeper and pointed a shotgun at him before they were chased through Manchester city centre.

The three men in fancy dress entered Brannigans in Peter Street at 1000 BST on Monday.

They handcuffed the trainee manager and threatened him with a sawn-off shotgun and a 10-inch knife before they fled with a small amount of money.

Their white Transit van was followed through the centre of Manchester and was involved in three separate accidents before the clowns ran from the vehicle and escaped.

'Terrifying' ordeal

Police hope witnesses will remember seeing the raiders because of their colourful costumes.

Detectives Inspector Darren Shention said four men escaped in Ravelston Drive after being followed along Deansgate, three of them still dressed as clowns.

"This was a highly organised team, who had obviously spent some time planning this robbery.

"The trainee manager who was threatened by the robbers has been left extremely shaken and traumatised by what can only be described as a terrifying ordeal.

"About 20 minutes before the robbery took place, the white Transit van was parked outside Brannigans, facing towards St Peters Square.

"There is no doubt that anyone walking along the road at the time the robbers were heading into or out of the building would have spotted them, especially as they were dressed as clowns."


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