Armed thieves kidnapped a shop worker and told his colleague "his life is in your hands" during a terrifying raid on a filling station.
The 47-year-old salesman has spoken out about the ordeal, which saw his 22-year-old colleague abducted by two masked raiders.
The shop worker endured an agonising wait for a time-lock on a shop safe to open while his young colleague was being driven around dark roads by his captors.
Gardai last night appealed to the public to help them track down the two abductors.
The raid happened at 9pm on Good Friday at the Top Garage in Athy, Co Kildare.
The two shop workers were closing the filling station when they were confronted by the masked raiders wielding a knife and a hammer.
Speaking to the Herald, the shop worker said: "We had to lie spread-eagled on the floor with our hands behind our heads.
"I could feel a knife in my back. They wanted the takings from the safe and they were angry when we told them it was time-locked.
"I gave them the code because I just wanted them off the premises.
"So they could hear the timer counting down. Then they grabbed my colleague and said 'You're f***ing coming with us'."
He said they left the shop with their captive and put him into their getaway car.
Then they went back into the shop and threw a mobile phone they had stolen from him and said they would "be in touch".
They drove off and, a few seconds later, phoned him using the young employee's mobile and warned he had to bring them the cash when the time-lock was released.
"They kept telling me, 'No funny business. No cops. His life is in your hands'," he said.
It was an agonising wait alone beside the safe for the time-lock to be released.
"It was about seven more minutes waiting. My mind was racing. I was thinking would I chance it and call the guards," he said.
But he decided his colleague and himself would be safer if he "played ball" with the brutal thugs. He said that when the safe finally opened, he asked the raiders by telephone if they wanted the coins as well as the banknotes and they replied they wanted "everything".
But when the raiders heard him spill the coins on the floor, they told him to just leave the filling station with the banknotes. He was instructed to close the shop normally and pull down the shutters so as not to cause suspicion.
He was told to drive along the road towards Kilkenny and then ordered to stop outside Athy near the 100kmh speed signs.
The raiders did a handbrake-turn on the road beside him and demanded the money. He handed it over and they released his colleague before speeding away.
The two shocked workers immediately dialled 999. Gardai arrived soon afterwards.
"I've had very little sleep since. I try not to think about them but they were scumbags of the highest order," the man said.
Garda Superintendent Martin Walker said the raiders were still "on the loose".
"This was a very, very serious incident involving a case of robbery and false imprisonment and both victims were very, very upset," said Supt Walker.
"One was armed with a hammer and the other was armed with a knife and they held both to ransom at one point."
The raiders got away with the day's takings, which totalled about €2,000.
He said gardai wanted to hear from anyone in the vicinity that night or anyone who could offer assistance in identifying the assailants.
They may have been aged in their late teens or early 20s. One is about 6ft tall and the other is about 5ft 6in. They had Dublin accents.
The suspects were believed to have been driving a Mazda 323F. Gardai can be contacted on 059 8634210 or via any garda station.