Detectives have launched a major manhunt for members of an organised crime gang who held three women and a man hostage in west Belfast in a ‘tiger’ kidnapping.
They were held captive in a house on Glen Parade for several hours while another man was forced to go to Scratch Nightclub in south Belfast and remove cash from the premises. The man was then ordered to leave the money at a location in the greater Belfast area.
It is not yet known how much was taken, however it is believed to be several thousand pounds.
A spokesman for Botanic Inns Ltd, which owns several bars and restaurants in the south Belfast area, confirmed the robbery occurred at one of its premises.
“Botanic Inns can confirm that an incident took place in Scratch Nightclub in Lower Crescent, Belfast, on Monday evening,” he said. “The safety of our customers and staff are our number one priority. Botanic Inns is assisting the relevant authorities with their inquiries.”
It is understood the four victims were unhurt but left traumatised by the ordeal.
They had been held captive for around eight hours before being freed by police shortly after 9am on Tuesday.
According to eyewitnesses, around 30 specially trained officers surrounded the west Belfast house before forcing their way into the property through the back door. Nobody was arrested at the scene.
It is understood the kidnappers had left the house warning of “serious harm” if the occupants raised the alarm. Yesterday residents in Glen Parade said they were shocked to learn of the tiger kidnapping but unaware their young neighbours were subjected to such a frightening ordeal. It is believed the three women lived in the house.
One neighbour told the Belfast Telegraph he saw around 30 police officers storm the property shortly after 9am.
He described his neighbours as “nice girls” who never “gave anyone any bother”.
West Belfast Sinn Fein MLA Paul Maskey said those behind the kidnapping “need to be removed”.
“This causes me and obviously the community great concern. This was a horrendous ordeal for anyone to have to go through and I call for anyone with information to come forward.
“The people who carry out these type of crimes do not care about anyone. This is all about greed, these people need to be removed from the streets,” he added.
SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said there is growing concern about these type of kidnappings.
He said: “This is all very disconcerting and is a shock for the local community. The police did a very good job rescuing these hostages but clearly there is concern about this, as there have been quite a few of these tiger kidnappings over the past six months or so.”
A police spokesman said it was too early to say if there was any paramilitary involvement in the kidnapping.