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Four held as hole in roof gang spotted during dawn raid

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 22/07/2015

Milltown Spar in Ballymoney
Milltown Spar in Ballymoney
The hole in ceiling through which thieves entered

As smash and grabs go, it was not the best planned attempted robbery. Would-be thieves had a hard time escaping from a Ballymoney filling station shop after gaining entry through the ceiling intent on stealing cash from either the cash machine or tills.

The raid was foiled because the alarm was raised after a masked man was spotted inside the closed Milltown Road shop at around 4am yesterday.

The bystander promptly reported the caught-in-the-act sighting to the police, who quickly investigated the report.

It led to the arrest of four men after police stopped them in a car a short distance from the shop at Macfin Road around 4.30am.

Police say that the men are aged 30, 28, and two aged 26.

Inspector David Burns said: "The four men are all arrested on suspicion of burglary and are currently assisting police with their enquiries."

The Spar filling station shop was reopened for business as usual yesterday.

A spokesman for the shop told the Belfast Telegraph that the shop ceiling had been badly damaged during the burglary and that it was believed that the robbers' main interest was in taking cash from the till.

However, police have not confirmed whether any money was stolen in the break-in.

Or if the robbers intended to remove the cash machine or take money from it.

How the raiders planned to make their escape from the shop - either through a door or back up through the badly damaged ceiling - is not known at this stage.

The hole in the ceiling may not have held the weight of any of the would-be robbers if they had climbed out from the shop the way they entered.

Nor was the hole ever going to be wide enough to lift the heavy Bank of Ireland machine from the Spar shop up.

Cash machines and locked tills are notoriously resistant to theft, so the gang may not have been successful anyway before attempting their getaway.

The shop also has an ATM outside the main building embedded into a wall.

ATMs have been the target of some bizarre robbery attempts over the years.

A crime gang was caught on camera just before Christmas 2014 during an attempt to rip an ATM from a wall with a stolen digger in Portadown.

After several clumsy bids the driver was forced to abandon the digger after failing to remove the machine.

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