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Last Updated: Friday, 31 December, 2004, 16:17 GMT
Notes 'legitimately in circulation'
The Northern Bank's headquarters in Donegall Square West, Belfast
Two employees of the bank were held captive
Thousands of notes thought to have been stolen in last week's Northern Bank robbery are legitimately in circulation.

Police investigating the raid had issued serial numbers of the notes and urged the public to contact them if they came across them.

However, they confirmed 50,000 20 notes listed as stolen may in fact be legitimately held by the public.

Detectives now have a full list of all the stolen notes.

Robbers stole 22m from the bank's city centre vaults on 20 December.

Police investigating the robbery have searched a number of areas in west Belfast.

On Thursday, commercial premises in the west of the city were also searched.

Nothing was found during the search at the Blackstaff complex off the Springfield Road.

Held hostage

Earlier this week, detectives 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.

The robbers stole millions from the vaults of the bank in Donegall Square West 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.
Police search operation in north Belfast
Police have searched premises in north and west Belfast

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.

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

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.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Footage of the police investigations



SEE ALSO:
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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