A retired policeman who shot himself is suspected of being |involved in an armed robbery at a bank hours earlier, it emerged last night.
It is understood the man, named last night as 37-year-old Edward Richard Hanley, played a role in a robbery at the Northern Bank at Larne Road in Ballymena yesterday morning and had been followed to his Loughan Hill home by officers when he produced the weapon and committed suicide.
Despite exhaustive efforts by both police and paramedics, Mr Hanley could not be saved.
Last night, a stunned neighbour and family friend told the Belfast Telegraph she was devastated by claims that Mr Hanley had been involved in the robbery.
Fighting back tears, the woman, who did not want to be named, said: “Not Ricky, he wouldn’t do anything like that. He was a lovely man. I can’t believe it.”
However, police have confirmed they are investigating a connection between the death of Mr Hanley, a father-of-two who is understood to have retired from the PSNI on health grounds, and the bank robbery less than two hours earlier.
A PSNI spokesman said: “We can confirm we are investigating a possible link between the armed robbery that occurred at Larne Road and the firearm incident that occurred in the Loughan Hill area of Ballymena this morning.
“Police inquiries are at an early stage and are continuing. We would appeal for information or for anyone who saw the robbery to contact police.”
The street where the shooting occurred is a quiet residential area and many shocked residents had to wait for hours to be |allowed into their homes yesterday as forensic officers carried out an examination of the scene.
One man said: “I was up here at the time but I didn’t hear a thing. I didn’t know him very well. Just to say hello to in the street and that kind of thing, but it’s a tragedy, especially with the two young boys.”
Friends were understood to be comforting Mr Hanley’s wife, Shauna, and the couple’s two young children last night.
It was hoped residents would be allowed to return to their homes once Mr Hanley’s body was removed from the scene yesterday evening.
Meanwhile, a second man was last night being questioned about the robbery, which occurred shortly before 10am yesterday when an armed man held up a member of staff and demanded cash before escaping with an undisclosed sum of money.
The PSNI spokesman said: “One man has been arrested in connection with the incident and is currently assisting police with their enquiries.”
The Police Ombudsman has been informed of the incident. A spokesman said: “We have been at the scene all afternoon and all evening and investigations are continuing.”