Belfast Telegraph

Rubbish searched in bank heist hunt
Police sift through refuse at council site

By Jonathan McCambridge, Crime Correspondent
31 December 2004

Police hunting the Northern Bank robbery gang have searched a Belfast City Council depot in west Belfast, it emerged today.

Refuse at the recycling site at Kennedy Way was searched yesterday by officers as they step up their hunt for the gang responsible for the £22m heist - the world's largest cash bank robbery.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein have accused the police of a campaign of intimidation following searches of commercial premises in the west of the city.

Police yesterday searched the Dairy Farm complex on the Stewartstown Road following operations the day before at the Blackstaff industrial complex on the Springfield Road.

A police spokeswoman said officers would continue to "pursue every possible line of inquiry" as part of their investigation.

But Sinn Fein MLA Michael Ferguson criticised the raids, which he described as "completely unacceptable".

He said: "Given the failure to uncover any evidence it is clear that the purpose of this operation is not to find bank robbers but to attempt to derail republican efforts to see the peace process put back on track.

"The operations against the republican and nationalist community over Christmas in Belfast demonstrate once again the distance which we still have to travel in order to see a proper democratically accountable policing service delivered.

"There have been searches at business premises and at community projects. This behaviour is completely unacceptable."

Police have refused to comment on specific raids, but sources have indicated that the search at the council depot on Kennedy Way was to look for items which may have been discarded following last week's robbery.

It was not revealed if any items were removed from the depot.

An armed gang stole £22m from the vaults of the Northern Bank's cash centre in Donegall Square West after they took the families of two bank officials hostage.

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