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Home of top Republican searched in bank probe

The home of top Belfast Republican Eddie Copeland was searched today by police involved in the hunt to recover the stole £22 million Northern Bank cash

By:Press Association
FRIDAY 24/12/2004 11:45:49

They checked every room in his three-storey home and took away shoes and mobile phones and at one stage during the two hours inside opened 30 Christmas presents.

Mr Copeland said: "They had no reason to come here because I have nothing to fear and this to me looks like a politically-motivated operation. I had nothing to do with any robbery."

Forensic experts in white overalls were involved in the search as armed policemen stood guard outside the house at Holmdene Gardens, Ardoyne, a fiercely republican area of North Belfast which has powerful IRA links.

A second house in the Lenadoon area of West Belfast was also searched by officers trying to recover the money, which went missing in one of the world`s biggest cash raids.

Even though republicans have denied any involvement in the robbery, police chiefs have not ruled out the possibility the IRA masterminded the £22 million theft from the headquarters of the Northern Bank last Monday night.

But Mr Copeland insisted today he had no part in the raid.

He was in bed with his partner while their 20-month-old daughter slept in another room when uniformed and CID officers knocked on his front door. Mobile phones belonging to him, his partner and two others due to be handed over at Christmas as gifts were taken away, as well as chips from a digital camera.

The search took place after a warrant was issued. At one stage, according to Mr Copeland, 34, one of the officers allegedly told him: "I bet you thought days like this were over."

The top republican said he is to make an official complaint to his solicitor.

He said: "They deliberately targeted me because they know I`m a republican in the area. It`s politically motivated and they`re trying to make out republicans were behind this robbery.

"There`s no reason why they should come here, no reason at all, and I have nothing to fear. Police can come here at any time, not that I would ever want them to.

"They took all my shoes away, including those I`d had for Christmas. All they left me was a pair of slip-ons.

"And they opened all the Christmas presents as well. They just peered in and put them back again but it was a serious invasion of my privacy."

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