Page last updated at 13:51 GMT, Friday, 7 January 2005

Timeline: Northern Bank robbery

The gang which carried out one of the biggest cash robberies ever appear to have planned every detail with great precision. They escaped with 26.5m after a robbery on the Northern Bank's Belfast headquarters. Here is a timetable of the raid:

Sunday 19 December 2200 GMT - Three masked men go to a house at Colinmill in Poleglass, on the western outskirts of Belfast. A mother, father, two sons and a girlfriend of one of the sons are in the house.

One of the sons is Chris Ward, a bank official with the Northern Bank in Donegall Square West.

He is taken away while at least two masked men hold the rest of the family hostage for more than 24 hours.

Mr Ward is taken in a red car from Poleglass to a house in Loughinisland Road, Downpatrick, County Down, where his supervisor lives.

When he arrives, two masked men have already taken over that house by pretending to be police officers.

Northern Bank
The Northern Bank's head office was robbed by the gang

His supervisor Kevin McMullan and his wife Karen have been tied up at gunpoint.

Sunday 2330 GMT - Mrs McMullan is taken away from the house to an undisclosed location where she is held blindfold for more than 24 hours.

Monday 20 December 0630 GMT - The masked men leave the house in Loughinisland Road, leaving the bank officials with instructions about what they must do.

Monday 1200 GMT - Mr McMullan and Mr Ward go into work and carry out their normal duties.

They work in the cash centre in the basement of the bank, in Donegall Square/Wellington Street.

Monday 1800 GMT -One of the workers leaves the bank carrying a holdall containing about 1m.

He goes around the corner into Upper Queen Street where he hands the bag to another man.

Police believe this was a trial run for the later robbery.

Monday 1900 GMT - Money which has loaded into crates is collected up by a "distinctive" white box van.

Monday 2000 GMT - The van makes a second collection from the Wellington Street entrance to the bank.

In excess of 26m is stolen in total before the van drives off towards the Grosvenor Road roundabout.

Monday 2300 GMT - Mrs McMullan finds her way to a house after being left in Drumkeeragh Forest Park, County Down, between Ballynahinch and Castlewellan.

She is suffering from exposure as a result of her ordeal.

Her car is later found burnt out in the forest park.

Monday 2345 GMT - Police and senior officials at the bank are alerted to the raid.

Sam Kinkaid, head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland's Crime Operations branch, is briefed and immediately signals the start of the hunt for the gang involved.

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