Terrifying ordeal for three women in tiger kidnapping
Two shots were fired by gardai from the emergency response unit as they foiled a tiger kidnap gang following a dramatic car chase.
The armed and masked gang had earlier woken a postmistress, her daughter and an Italian friend from their sleep and held them hostage throughout the night.
Last night one man was in garda custody while at least two other gang members were being sought across the capital.
Postmistress Susan Lawlor was taken at gunpoint yesterday morning to her premises at Bayside in Sutton on the northside of the city.
She was forced to hand over €85,000 in cash shortly after normal opening hours when the timelock on the safe no longer operated.
But the money was later recovered by gardai when an emergency operation was put in place after officers were alerted about the kidnap and robbery by An Post officials.
Garda units spotted the gang as they were leaving Bayside and pursued them through the northside with assistance from a garda helicopter.
More than a dozen garda vehicles were involved in the high-speed chase, including unmarked cars.
The getaway vehicle was eventually intercepted on the Malahide Road after it crashed near the grounds of Malahide Castle, where the shots were fired and officers arrested the 20-year-old suspect.
The man, who is currently living in the north inner city but is thought to be from Swords, was taken to Coolock garda station.
He was being questioned there last night under section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act and could be held without charge for up to three days.
Gardai believe they know the identity of other gang members and have carried out a number of searches of houses and regular haunts of the suspects.
After the getaway car was stopped, the other two occupants fled on foot and were pursued into the woods surrounding Malahide Castle where gardai carried out a massive search while roads were blocked and traffic diversions put in place.
Bayside post office has also been held up by armed robbers in the past.
The terrifying ordeal for Ms Lawlor and the other women began around 1am when the thugs forced their way into her home in Malahide and forced them out of bed.
The women were then held hostage in their nightclothes until near breakfast time when Ms Lawlor was ordered to drive her own Nissan Qashqai car to the Bayside post office.
The raiders waited until the timelock was released and then forced her to hand over the money before making off in a dark-coloured car.
But, unknown to the gang, the alarm was set off during the robbery and An Post officials quickly alerted the garda authorities.
A senior garda officer said: "The agreed protocols between us and An Post worked very well in this operation".
During the search operation, door-to-door inquiries were also conducted and park rangers in Malahide were interviewed by gardai.
The scene where the man was arrested was examined yesterday and a Volkswagen Golf was towed away for further examination.
Two scenes were also preserved at the Bayside Post Office, where there was a strong garda presence for much of the day. The post office itself was sealed off for forensic examination by gardai while another area just yards away in the car park was also blocked off.
The Nissan Qashqai, believed to belong to Ms Lawlor, was also towed away for further examination. A number of items, including a metal bar, were sealed in plastic bags by gardai and removed from the scene.
Last night gardai said the three women were uninjured but had been through a traumatic experience and appealed for their privacy to be respected as much as possible.
A description of the two men being sought was also issued.
Both were said to be in their late 40s and early 50s with a "chubby" build. One was 5ft 10in tall and was wearing dark leggings and a dark top while the other had dark grey hair, and was wearing blue runners with a green stripe. The two men had Dublin accents.
An incident room was set up at Coolock garda station and anyone with information was asked to call the room at 01 6664200, or to phone the confidential line, 1800 666111.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said so-called tiger kidnappings were a particularly callous and cowardly form of crime.
"Our thoughts must be with the victims of such a despicable crime as well as the hope that they can recover from their dreadful ordeal".
She said she also commended the actions of the gardai in their determined efforts to thwart those who carried out such evil acts and ensure that they were brought to justice.
Local Fianna Fail senator Averil Power said: "Tiger kidnapping is every business person's worst nightmare and this must have been a particularly frightening experience for these three women.
"This is not the first attack on this post office and the community is appalled by this attack."