Page last updated at 12:07 GMT, Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Masked men lock woman in car boot

Police tape

Two masked men forced a woman into the boot of a car and kidnapped her in a bid to steal money in Belfast.

The kidnapping happened at March Street in the Shankill area at about 1600 GMT on Monday.

The 19-year-old woman was taken and ordered to call a friend working at an east Belfast garage and tell her to hand over cash from the business.

However, the women refused to cooperate and the teenager was later released unharmed in the Peter's Hill area.

Family

Earlier on Monday, a family was held captive overnight in the Lisburn area.

At about 2100 GMT on Sunday two men, one of them armed with a handgun, entered their home.

They demanded that three children, one aged 15 and two aged eight-years-old, be put into their bedrooms. The parents were held in another part of the house.

At 0645 GMT on Monday, the father was forced to go to retail premises in Belfast city centre and hand over cash.

The mother, father and three children were then freed.

The PSNI have said 35 people have been charged in connection with kidnap and robberies in Northern Ireland within the past five years.

Detective Superintendent Peter Farrar said the police have been working with larger organisations but said smaller businesses also had to be vigilant.

"The corner shops are also starting to become involved in these," he said.

"I would appeal to all of those to speak to their local district crime prevention officer to consider who has access in their staff to money, or access to the safe, and what can they do to minimise that.

He said businesses had to "reduce any chance of somebody having to come in and take money because one of their loved ones is being held hostage".

The president of Belfast Chamber of Commerce, John Moore, said there was often an increase in such robberies at key trading periods like Christmas.

Appeal

Businesses have been advised by police to review normal procedures.

"We've been working closely since yesterday afternoon with the PSNI," said Mr Moore.

"We'll be sending out some key tactical points for members, changing normal procedures, the opening and closing of shops, cash handling and being vigilant above all."

Police are appealing for anyone who noticed a black car with tinted windows in the Woodvale or Shankill areas on Monday afternoon to contact them.

They are also keen to speak to anyone who noticed such a car in the Peter's Hill area from 1730 GMT onwards.

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