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Grim-faced state of siege

It was a bright crisp day in the City of London yesterday but there was precious little sunshine at Barings' Bishopsgate h

ead offices as the stricken bank adopted a siege mentality.

Many of the bank's staff cut short their weekend to report for duty but few were prepared to comment on the crisis or the negotiations inside.

Tight-lipped employees, some dressed in City suits, others in casual weekend attire, hurried in through the front entrance and left grim-faced via the rear.

"People are just coming in to see what they can do," one said. Asked to comment on the atmosphere inside, he said, "I couldn't say."

Another said she would have come in for work that Sunday anyway. "Barings is a good employer, people like working for them."

One woman arrived at the offices unaware of the bank's precarious position. She was seen, head in hands, discovering the news in the day's papers.

The head office is a sleek 20-storey building and a model of City discretion. It does not even feature the name of the company outside.

Normally the premises would be deserted on a Sunday but yesterday saw bank staff, lawyers and computer specialists coming in to lend a hand.

Outside two chauffeur-driven Mercedes were parked all day, engines running ready to ferry directors to the Bank of England in Threadneedle Street just around the corner. At 5pm the drivers ordered pizzas, obviously expecting a long night. ahead.

At 6pm there was a flurry of activity as a group of executives walked hurriedly to the limousines and waiting taxis.

At the rear, the bad news for the bank continued. In their rush to lend a hand in the crisis, many staff had parked their cars on double yellow lines.

The attendants were handing out tickets.