Belfast Telegraph

**more PISSNI expertise

Hunt for gun stolen in searches

By Ben Lowry
27 December 2004

Police were still hunting for a handgun and ammunition today stolen from a police Land Rover on Christmas Eve during searches of homes of republicans in relation to the Northern Bank heist.

A PSNI spokesman has confirmed reports that the weaponry was taken from the vehicle during an operation in the Cavendish Street area off the Falls Road.

The loss of the gun is a fresh embarrassment to the police, who have been in the spotlight over their response to a traffic warden's report of suspicious behaviour while £22m in cash was being shipped out of the bank.

A probe has been launched into the weapon theft that happened during raids on homes in west Belfast that were met with violent opposition. The Ardoyne home of the leading republican Eddie Copeland (34), was among those searched.

During one of the searches, five officers were injured when their Land Rovers were attacked by a crowd of up to 100 throwing stones, bottles and other missiles when moving in to search a house in Ballymurphy.

The Northern Bank may still considering withdrawing all its banknotes in a desperate attempt to foil the heist gang.

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