GARDAI have launched an investigation after €9,000 disappeared from an evidence bag at a garda station.
A small tear was found in the bag that held a large quantity of cash recovered several weeks ago after a post office robbery.
A major investigation is now under way into how the cash went missing at Balbriggan garda station -- with forensic officers examining the bag to determine whether it was cut open.
The money in the bag was the suspected proceeds of an armed robbery at a post office in Lusk, north Co Dublin, last January.
Armed raiders made off with €26,000 after holding up staff at the premises, but the haul was recovered soon afterwards.
Detectives on an anti-crime patrol responded to an emergency call about the raid and intercepted the gang as they were making their escape.
After the cash was taken by gardai to Balbriggan station in Dublin, it was bagged and tagged after being photographed for use as evidence in a subsequent criminal trial.
The money was then placed in a safe at the station.
However, when the owner of the premises called to seek the return of the money, gardai discovered a small tear in the side of the bag.
The contents of the bag were checked and it was discovered that €9,000 had disappeared.
A thorough search of the station was carried out and members who handled the money were interviewed.
But none of the missing cash has been traced.
The garda authorities have now appointed a senior officer from outside the division to head a formal investigation into the disappearance of the cash.
One officer said last night that it was too early yet to say whether the cash had been stolen again while in garda storage.
But there was no evidence to indicate that it had been mislaid.
In the January raid, three thugs held up four members of staff and two customers at gunpoint, and locked the staff in a back room while the customers were ordered to lie on the floor.
They ran out with the money and jumped into a getaway car. But before they could drive off, gardai blocked their exit.
The gang locked themselves into the car, but gardai eventually smashed the windows of the vehicle and pulled out the suspects.
The post office money was recovered inside the car.
The post office also operates as a Costcutter shop. Two raiders were shot dead at the premises during a botched robbery in May 2005.
Robbers Colm Griffin and Eric Hopkins were gunned down when they confronted members of the Emergency Response Unit.