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I feared being shot if I didn't steal £38k from cash machine, engineer tells court

By Michael Donnelly

An engineer with the security firm G4S, who once foiled three armed robberies, has told a court how he thought he was going to be shot dead after being kidnapped off the street and forced to rob an ATM of almost £40,000.

The 52-year-old engineer, John Patterson from Carwood Way in Newtownabbey, was giving evidence at the Belfast Crown Court trial where he denies a total of four charges.

The charges include the December 2011 burglary of a Northern Bank ATM, and three of converting criminal property by lodging almost £9,000 into his accounts and over £3,500 as a deposit on a caravan. Patterson told defence QC Charles MacCreanor that while on cash-delivering duties he was involved in three attempts to rob him and he "actually saved the money". On one occasion the attacker had a machete and another was armed with an AK47 assault rifle.

He told the jury of six women and six men that he was walking to the shops either on December 6 or 7, 2011, when he was ordered into the back of a Vauxhall Cavalier by a masked man with a handgun. In the car he was beaten around the head before being shown photographs of his wife, stepdaughter and daughter.

He was then given instructions to take the keys to an ATM 'bunker' attached to a north Belfast supermarket, and to empty it of cash.

"I was only in the car for about five minutes, but it seemed longer. They said to me that they (wife and family) were going to be killed if I didn't get the money. I didn't think I was getting out of the car alive. I thought he was dead," said Patterson.

He further explained that this situation was different from the attempted robberies where he had "the chance to fight them off ... this time I was taken from behind, a gun put to my head".

The engineer did as he was told and on December 12 was picked up again, this time by arrangement, and driven to the ATM at the Cavehill Road Spar supermarket. Again he said he "thought I was going to die, and I didn't want to die," so he took the plastic shopping bag given to him and emptied the ATM of £38,000 in £20 notes.

Afterwards he said he "staggered out of the car .... I wasn't myself ... walked home dazed, stunned".

Patterson agreed with Mr MacCreanor that the following day he paid £8,800 into either his bank or building society accounts, and that about four months later paid a £3,520 cash deposit on a caravan.

The monies, he claimed, came from DIY jobs he had done and that the cash, saved up in an old aftershave box he kept on top of his wardrobe, was his "emergency kitty".

He also admitted that although shown security video on the so-called 'tiger-kidnapping' he was too frightened to tell his G4S bosses, the police or colleagues, let alone his wife and family.

Under cross examination from prosecutor James Johnston, Patterson said that he had lost his home and wife because of what had happened and maintained that his "life was threatened ... I was forced to take money from the ATM".

He also accepted that he "probably could have told them (anyone), but I didn't", adding that he was "in fear of my life".

Patterson said he tried to carry on with life as normally as he could, although he knew he could have given either his bosses or colleagues, "either a signal or a code word and wired them off", but he didn't.

However, he refuted suggestions from Mr Johnston that his was a "made-up story".

"My story is absolutely fine," replied Patterson, who also rejected prosecution claims that he was never threatened, or put under duress, and far from using savings to bolster his accounts and to make a down payment on a caravan, he made the payments from the monies taken from the burgled ATM.

The case continues today when the jury is expected to retire to consider its verdicts.

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