Five men have been arrested in connection with the kidnap of a Hartlepool businessman earlier this year.

Tony Pattison, a building contractor, was snatched from his car at gun point as he ate sandwiches at the sea-front in Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, in March.

He was bundled into a white Ford Transit van and held for more than 30 hours before being released when ransom money was handed over.

Following an eight-month investigation into the incident more than 50 officers from Cleveland Police were involved in a series of early morning raids today in connection with the kidnap.

Five men were arrested as teams hit houses on Tyneside and Teesside.

A 43-year-old was taken from his home in the Newcastle area, two, aged 43 and 52, from houses in Hartlepool, one aged 42 from a house in Middlesbrough and a 34-year-old from his home in Stockton.

A search is still ongoing throughout the North-East for a further male.

All five were yesterday taken to police stations throughout Teesside where they were due to be questioned throughout the day.

A Cleveland Police spokesman said: "Their homes, along with a number of other properties linked to them, are now being probed by specialist search teams. This operation is expected to last throughout the day."

Detective inspector Tony Riordan, from Hartlepool CID, said: "Tuesday's operation was the culmination of months of hard work by a dedicated team of officers."

At the height of the kidnap, more than 100 officers including some from the National Crime Squad were involved and the ransom money, which was left at a drop-off point during a covert operation, was later recovered.

A 42-year-old man was arrested following initial enquiries in March, but he was later released on police bail.

Speaking shortly after the incident Mr Pattison, who is married with a step-son in his 20s, said: "The trauma has had an appalling effect on me and my family.

"I did not know what would happen next."