North Belfast family terrorised in tiger kidnapping-style robbery
MASKED men have terrorised a north Belfast family, demanding cash from the business of a relative who owns a taxi depot.
The gang forced their way into a house in the Lansdowne Road area at around 9.30pm on Sunday armed with a gun and a knife and held the terrified family hostage.
While they claimed to be from the INLA, sources say they are led by a well-known north Belfast criminal who has been convicted of similar offences in the past.
The four attackers ransacked the property, demanded money and assaulted the male occupant.
A man and younger woman were then loaded into two separate vehicles and driven to Ardoyne in north Belfast while a ransom demand was made.
The Irish News understand that a businessman relative of the victims was contacted and a demand for a significant sum of money was made.
One line of inquiry is that the robbers may have had some inside knowledge of what day drivers working for the taxi firm paid their weekly depot rent.
The kidnapped man, who had been left in the back of a white Ford Transit van, managed to free himself and raise the alarm after the vehicle was abandoned in Ardoyne.
The woman was discovered a short time later after a search of the area. She was restrained in the back of a red Mercedes SUV also left in Ardoyne.
The man suffered non life-threatening injuries and the woman was physically unharmed but was severally traumatised by her ordeal, which lasted over two hours.
On Monday evening police were carrying out door-to-door inquiries in the Lansdowne area asking for witnesses to come forward who may have seen the two vehicles in the area.
Detective Inspector Michael McDonnell said: "Just before 11.15pm on Sunday evening, police received a report that earlier that evening, at approximately 9.30pm, four masked persons, who were believed to have been armed with a knife and handgun, forcefully entered a property in Lansdowne Road and attacked the two occupants.
"The attackers then spent some time ransacking the property and assaulted a male occupant.
"The attackers then forced the male occupant into a white Ford Transit van and a female occupant into a red Mercedes SUV.
"The victims were then held and driven around for a period of time, before both vehicles were left parked up in the Ardoyne area.
"At this point, the male victim was able to free himself and raise the alarm. The female occupant of the other vehicle was subsequently located and freed. She was understandably terrified, but physically unharmed".
Police said it was a "despicable, vicious and prolonged attack which has left the victims very shaken".
Mr McDonnell said: "In particular, I am appealing to anyone in the area with CCTV, or indeed anyone with a dashcam who was driving in the area from 9pm through to 11.30pm on Sunday December 15, to review their footage and contact detectives at Musgrave quoting reference number 2004 15/12/19.
"Any information which may seem irrelevant could potentially be of great significance as part of our overall investigation."