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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 December, 2004, 16:06 GMT
Search of hostages' homes ends
The Northern Bank's headquarters in Donegall Square West, Belfast
It is understood two employees of the bank were held captive
Detectives investigating the 22m Northern Bank robbery have finished searching the homes of two bank officials.

The two families had to spend Christmas away from their houses in Poleglass and Loughinisland after they were preserved as crime scenes.

But on Tuesday, police called an end to their examination of the houses which had been dusted down for clues about the gang who held the families hostage and carried out the robbery.

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.

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.

Footage of the police investigations

Police return to hostage's home
27 Dec 04 |  Northern Ireland
Police deny 'bank robbery botch'
23 Dec 04 |  Northern Ireland
Gang in '20m' bank raid
21 Dec 04 |  Northern Ireland

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