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Portlaoise jewellery store owner foils €130,000 robbery

Armed raiders didn't reckon on the determination of jewellery store owner Gerry Browne when they smashed display cases and grabbed a haul worth €130,000.

The robbery at Browne's jewellers on Main Street, Portlaoise, Co Laois, went like clockwork until the owner turned up.

The raiders, one armed with a hammer and the other with an imitation handgun, hit the jewellery store about 10am yesterday. Two female staff, one who is pregnant, were immediately tied up.

The raiders began smashing display cases and loaded jewellery worth about €130,000 into a hold-all bag.

And then their plan quickly began to fall apart.

Gerry Browne, who was upstairs, came down and saw the raiders with the women.

He slipped out the back door and around to the front door and tried to block the way by closing the door from the outside.

"One raider pointed the gun at me," he said.

The raider ran out and escaped. The second raider, holding a hammer and the bag, sprinted across the road and Gerry took off after him.

"I tackled him to the ground from the back. I used to play a bit of GAA. The hammer dropped to the ground," he said.

"My brother-in-law, Phil Duggan, who runs The Square Meal restaurant across the road, came out with the chef. The three of us held him on the ground. He was squealing and squawking like a badger."

"Two lads from Blue Sky Mortgages, Kevin Fitzpatrick, a former Laois footballer, and Shane Conroy also helped.

"A man driving a car pulled up and got out on the Main Street and came back to help. There's good community spirit in Portlaoise."

Gerry added: "I've been 45 years in the business and I've never had anything like this. The girls are traumatised. They are loyal and brilliant staff.

Gardai were still hunting the second man last night

The arrested man, a 25-year-old Polish national, was brought to Portlaoise garda station.

He was still being held last night under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State act and can be detained for three days.

No one was hurt in the robbery. Gardai will now trawl through cctv footage in a bid to identify the second raider, who is in his 20s.

Belfast Telegraph