Financial Transpot Firm to Use Remote Locks to Deter Raids

One of the State's biggest security firms has decided to introduce a remote locking system when delivering money to banks and ATM machines in an attempt to reduce the risk of its staff being targeted by armed gangs.

The move by Securicor follows the theft of EUR 1.3 million from one of its vans in Carlow town on Monday after a 67-year-old employee and his wife were held captive. Securicor has also insisted that, despite suggestions to the contrary, staff members caught up in Monday's heist followed all the company's procedures.

The company last night issued a statement outlining the changes to its delivery system.

Crews of cash delivery vans will no longer have control over the mechanisms that lock large sums into secure compartments.

Instead, locking and unlocking will be operated remotely by staff at a centralised control room. A global positioning system will be used to check the locations of vans when a request is made to unlock compartments.

Such requests will only be granted if control staff are satisfied the vans are at planned delivery points at scheduled times.

The change represents the accelerated implementation of one of a number of measures in a voluntary code of conduct agreed 18 months ago between the biggest firms in the private security sector.

Securicor managing director Brendan Smith said the company would not normally publicise such changes. It was only doing so now in the interests of protecting its staff.

He said the company's usual policy of refraining from commenting publicly on security arrangements had given rise to reports which implied that procedures were not followed. He insisted all of the staff directly involved in Monday's robbery had followed all procedures.

"The reality is that ordinary, decent people are being subjected to extreme terror in the course of these attacks," he said.

Securicor welcomed the announcement on Tuesday of a Garda plan involving saturation policing in areas where co-ordinated deliveries of cash will be made by rival companies. It was hopeful the new measures would deter more robberies and hostage-taking.

In Monday's attack, at least four raiders armed with handguns arrived at the home of Bernard and Ailish Hogan at Hillcrest Close, Lucan, Co Dublin, just after 7pm. Ms Hogan was taken to a disused property off the Naas Road, near Rathcoole, where she was held overnight.

She was only freed on Monday morning after Mr Hogan, who works for Securicor, drove gang members to Carlow town where a van making deliveries was intercepted and EUR 1.3 million taken. The couple were said to be "deeply traumatised". They have been interviewed by gardaĂ­.

Some EUR 2.3 million was taken during a similar robbery of a Securicor van in March 2005. On that occasion, the family of van driver Paul Richardson was held captive in their home in Raheny, Dublin.