30/11/2006

Reward offered following robbery shooting

A £25,000 reward has been offered after an armed gang shot at unarmed officers during a bank robbery in Horwich.

The robbery took place on Wednesday morning at the Barclays Bank on Winter Hey Lane. Three men arrived at the bank in a red Ford Focus. Two of them got out of the car, armed with a shotgun and samurai type sword.

The men threatened bank employees and assaulted one of them, before stealing what police described as a "substantial amount of money".

The men later swapped the Ford Focus for a Ford Mondeo just off Crown Lane and set fire to the Focus.

A marked police van was in pursuit of the Mondeo when the car stopped and two of the men, one armed with a shotgun, got out of the car and fired a shot through the windscreen of the van. They then drove off.

Two unarmed officers in the van were injured. The 26-year-old officer driving the van suffered an eye injury and cuts to his face and arms. His colleague, a 40-year-old woman, who was in the passenger seat, was treated for shock.

Both officers were treated in the Royal Bolton hospital for minor injuries. The bank worker who was assaulted during the robbery was treated by paramedics at the scene.

The Ford Mondeo was later found abandoned in a car park near to the Crawford Arms on Red Rock Lane in Haigh. It had false registration plates, reading LM04 UTE. Police said that the car had been stolen from the Astley area of Leigh on November 9 and that the actual registration was RA54 GLZ.

Police said that the men involved in the incident are believed to be white and they were all wearing dark clothing and dark coloured face masks.

Police have appealed for information about the robbery, as well as the whereabouts of the Ford Mondeo between the time it was stolen and the time it was used in the robbery.

Superintendent Andy Durkin from Bolton Police said: "I'd like to reiterate that the men responsible for these incidents are armed and dangerous and no one should protect their identities. To discharge a shotgun at close range directly at the windscreen of a police van at unarmed officers and to use unnecessary violence against bank staff is just horrific. These men need to be caught."

Supt Durkin said that large amounts of CCTV footage were being examined as part of the investigation. He said: "I'd like to reassure the local community that we are doing everything we can to trace the offenders responsible for these terrifying incidents. We have increased patrols in the area and members of the public will see an increased amount of high visibility officers. Anyone with any concerns or information can speak to these officers or contact their local station.

"I'd like to remind the public that this particular robbery is unusual in the level of violence used by the offenders and that a gun was actually fired. Commercial and cash in transit robbers rarely target members of the public and do not usually carry firearms."

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Bolton CID on: 0161 856 5740 or Crimestoppers anonymously on: 0800 555 111.

(KMcA)

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