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Last Updated: Monday, 27 December, 2004, 18:36 GMT
Police return to hostage's home
The Northern Bank's headquarters in Donegall Square West, Belfast
It is understood two employees of the bank were held captive
Detectives have returned to the home of one of the Northern Bank robbery hostages.

The two families who were held hostage as part of the 22m robbery have had to spend Christmas away from their homes.

Police are continuing to hold both houses as crime scenes.

One is in west Belfast and the other is near Downpatrick in County Down.

The robbers stole millions from the vaults of the bank in Donegall Square West on 20 December as the families of the two bank officials were held hostage.

The bank officials are Kevin McMullan from Downpatrick and Chris Warde from Colinmill in Poleglass.

On Monday, detectives carried out a fresh search of the Warde family home in the Poleglass area of Belfast.

On Christmas Eve, a search team took a number of items away for forensic examination.

Meanwhile, police are still hunting for a handgun and ammunition stolen from a police Land Rover on Christmas Eve.

The weaponry was taken from the vehicle in Cavendish Street, just off the Falls Road, during one of several raids in the area.

The bank raid is thought to have been one of the UK's biggest cash robberies.

THE 22M RAID
12m in new Northern Bank 100 and 20 notes were taken
5m of assorted used NI banknotes were taken
1.15m of new Northern Bank 100 and 50 notes were among the stolen cash
Four people were held hostage at a house in Poleglass on the outskirts of west Belfast
Two people were held in County Down
A woman was held blindfolded for more than 24 hours
45 detectives are working on the case

Sinn Fein chief Gerry Adams has complained to the government about raids by police investigating the robbery.

Five officers were hurt in Ballymurphy, west Belfast, as residents clashed with police when they raided the homes of a prominent republican.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has said the possible involvement of paramilitaries is a "key line of inquiry".

But the IRA has denied involvement in the robbery.

Meanwhile, Northern Bank bosses may withdraw all the bank's notes.

A bank spokesman said the recall plan was "under very, very serious consideration" but stressed that no decision has been taken.

The unusual move would be an attempt to take out of circulation all of the stolen notes, and render them worthless.

It would involve replacing about 30m of old banknotes.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Footage of the police investigations



SEE ALSO:
Police deny 'bank robbery botch'
23 Dec 04 |  Northern Ireland
Gang in '20m' bank raid
21 Dec 04 |  Northern Ireland


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