Man held after bank hostages freed

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The Independent Online

A bank siege ended peacefully last night when a man was arrested after up to 16 people taken hostage were released unharmed.

Customers and at least three members of staff were taken prisoner earlier in the day when a man believed to be armed with a shotgun walked into a branch of Barclays Bank in Ashford, Middlesex.

During the siege the hostage-taker shouted that he had dynamite.

"I was inside the bank when a man came in and told everyone to get down and get their hands above their head. He told one guy to lock the doors," one of the hostages, called Lianne, is reported to have said.

"The man asked if anyone suffers from heart problems to tell him. I told him I suffered from anxiety attacks and he let me go."

Armed Police surrounded the building while negotiators talked to the suspect and shortly after 7pm, more than three hours after the siege began, a man walked out and was arrested.

Before the siege was brought to an end several hostages, some with their hands tied behind their backs, were seen leaving the building. Some of the hostages are thought to have been forced to don white boiler suits and to spraypaint the windows to prevent anyone seeing inside.

Superintendent Duncan Greenhalgh, of Surrey Police, said: "Trained hostage negotiators made contact with an individual inside the bank and just after 7pm a man came out ... and was contained by armed police.

"A man in his 30s has been arrested and is currently in police custody. All the people involved are being assessed by medical teams but there have been no serious injuries.

Tim Kiy, of Barclays, said: "Our focus now is the wellbeing of those involved, who will be provided with all the support and counselling they need."