31/05/2005

Six to ten people behind Boots robbery - police

Police believe that a gang of between six and 10 people were involved in stealing £118,000 from the Boots store in Belfast city centre at the weekend.

Officers investigating the robbery have said that paramilitary involvement was not one of their main lines of inquiry which were said to be at a “very early stage”.

Two employees were ordered to go to the shop on Royal Avenue and get money while their families were held hostage at their homes in the south and west of the city on Saturday.

The cash, which was hidden in sports bags, was handed over to the thieves at Wellington Place at about 9.15pm.

PSNI chief constable Hugh Orde, meanwhile, has hit out at comments by former Police Federation chairman, Jimmy Spratt, who today said that the police service’s intelligence gathering capabilities "was now non-existent".

Mr Spratt, who is now a DUP councillor, said he believed there was a reluctance on the part of the police to say there was paramilitary involvement in the robbery at the Boots store.

However, Mr Orde said the PSNI's systems were among the world's most advanced and that he was “very proud” of the officers that work in the field of intelligence gathering.

Detectives have appealed for anyone with information about the robbery to contact the Incident Room on 028 9070 0305 or calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

(MB/SP)

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