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Orange dye clue to bank raiders

DETECTIVES are hoping that orange security dye inside a bag of cash stolen in a bank robbery at Coxheath, near Maidstone, will help them trace the offenders.

The police are asking the public to look out for anyone with the orange dye on their bodies or clothes or on any bank notes.

The armed robbery took place on Monday at the NatWest bank, in Heath Road shortly after 11.30am.

Initially, members of the public reported that hostages were being held inside the bank. But the criminals had already fled the scene by the time police arrived.

The alarm was raised after villagers entered the bank to find two members of staff and four customers being threatened by a man with a handgun.

Heather Millen, 39, from Coxheath, was walking into the bank with her daughter. She said: "I saw two women standing at the door with their fingers in their mouths. They looked terrified. I asked if they were all right and they said no and pointed to a man.

"I indicated to them with my hands whether he had a gun and they said yes. That's when I left and an elderly lady went into Threshers and phoned the police."

Before police could get to the scene, the robber had fled in a silver saloon car, believed to be a Citroen Xantia with bin liners over its number plates.

One eye witnesses described how the car mounted the pavement almost knocking her over before screeching to a halt to pick up the robber.

When armed police arrived they surrounded the bank and locked the customers and staff inside in case the robber was still in the bank.

The road was closed for two hours while police searched the area and made sure it was safe. Jackie Howieson , who works in the nearby Londis store, was one of the customers locked in the bank as she tried to pay a bill.

She came face to face with the gunman as he left the building. She said: "I opened the door to him. He was in no hurry. He had done what he had to do. Everyone inside was very calm."

She said the robber was wearing dark glasses and a baseball cap. No-one was injured in the raid. It is not yet known how much was stolen or how many robbers were involved.

Police are searching for the car. They are appealing for anyone with any information to call Maidstone police station on 01622 608189.

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