Monday, August 08, 2005

Raid cops draw a blank as money trail goes cold

Joe Oliver:

DETECTIVES have drawn a blank in one of their main lines of inquiry in the so-far fruitless hunt for the Northern Bank robbers.

They were hoping some scrap of evidence would turn up in the search for clues at THEIR OWN sports club.

The £50,000 discovered at the Newforge Country Club in February is the only money yet recovered by cops from the mind-boggling £26.5m haul.

The embarrassing discovery was made after a call to the Police Ombudsman from a man claiming to be a police officer.

The money - in five shrink-wrapped plastic packages - was found hidden in the toilets of the south Belfast complex.

At the time, Chief Constable Hugh Orde insisted the bundles of cash were planted to try and divert attention from the cross-border police investigation into the robbery and IRA money-laundering operations.

Former and serving police officers use the sports club, which is owned by the force's Athletics Association.

But it also facilitates a wide range of sporting activities, and has been used in the past by international cricketers and rugby stars, as well as the Northern Ireland football team.

Police investigating the biggest cash robbery in history, spent hours poring over CCTV footage taken from cameras around the club.

Dozens of members were also quizzed in a bid to jog memories and possibly identify anyone who may have been a stranger to the club.

A police source told Sunday Life: "Forensic experts went over the toilet areas with a fine tooth-comb and, obviously, detectives have thoroughly examined all available film footage.

"But, to date, nothing has turned up that would provide a positive link to the robbers.

"There were a number of problems - one being that the security gate at the entrance to the club's main car park had been unmanned for some time.

"Another difficulty was that quite a lot of time had elapsed between the actual bank robbery, on December 20, and the discovery of the £50,000."

A police spokeswoman said yesterday that, while no one had yet been detained or questioned about the cash found at Newforge, the investigation was "live and ongoing".

Maybe the reason why the detectives have been so unsuccessful in their investigation is because the IRA did NOT steal the money? Orde was in such a hurry to pin the blame on the IRA that he ignored other more likely suspects and it is unlikely that the robbery will ever be solved since the real perpetrators have probably laundered the money by now.


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