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Bungling bank robbers tunnel into ladies room

DUBLIN, Ireland -- Fearless bank robbers who dug a tunnel from outside a police center found their sense of direction lacking and came out in a ladies restroom instead of a bank vault.

The gang tunneled 25 yards underground, crept through sewers and cut a 2-foot hole in a basement wall which turned out to be a ladies restroom, police said Tuesday.

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That triggered an electronic alarm in a police station a half-mile away and the gang -- size unknown -- fled empty-handed, leaving behind cutting equipment, digging tools, a gas cylinder and a crowbar, police said.

The bungled raid on the downtown Dame Street branch of the Allied Irish Bank occurred over the long Easter holiday weekend and ended when the alert sounded at 3 a.m. Monday, police said.

Police said they were still piecing together the details of the break-in but said it must have taken the robbers since late Thursday, after the bank closed for the holiday, to cut their way into the bank.

The gang did not lack for nerve, police said. It started the tunnel on a piece of vacant ground outside the wall of Dublin Castle, Dublin's main police communications center and forensic laboratories, next to the bank.

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From the tunnel they crawled through sewers to reach the wall of the bank, where they triggered the alarm at Pearse Street police station by cutting into the washroom, police said.

It was unclear if it was worth all the effort. Police sources said they believed the vault held up to $980,000, but a bank spokesman said the figure probably was closer to $147,000.

'Even if they had got through the outer security rim, it would have been virtually impossible to get into the strongroom,' the bank spokesman said.

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