Belfast Telegraph

Pair spent five nights building tunnel into bank

By Conor Gallagher

A man guilty of attempting an elaborate bank heist represented himself in court yesterday because he "doesn't want to waste any more public money".

John O'Connell (48), of Roseberry Lane, Lucan, Co Dublin, and another man spent five nights tunnelling into a Co Offaly bank from a vacant building next door.

He was sentenced to five years by Judge Patrick McCartan after he changed his plea to guilty mid-trial.

O'Connell, who represented himself, pleaded not guilty to burglary, criminal damage and conspiracy to rob at the old Post Office, JKL Street, Edenderry, on April 26, 2009.

However, shortly after the trial began yesterday, he changed his plea to guilty on the burglary and criminal damage offences.

The prosecution accepted the pleas and O'Connell asked to be sentenced immediately.

O'Connell's co-accused, John Foy (48), of Cashel Avenue, Crumlin, Dublin, was sentenced two weeks ago for his role. He was sentenced to one year in addition to a 12-year term he is already serving for a separate armed bank robbery.

O'Connell's 16 previous convictions included one for indecent assault and a 10-year sentence for false imprisonment and aggravated burglary.

The judge called it "a very skilful and well thought-out operation" and commended the owner of the vacant post office for alerting gardai when he noticed signs of the tunnelling.

The men were caught in the act after gardai observed them enter the building every night for five nights. They were arrested when the Emergency Response Unit moved in.

O'Connell claimed his only role was to remove the brickwork in the bank wall and that he wasn't going to be part of any armed raid.

Judge McCartan rejected this and said he had given all the leniency he could to O'Connell.

Sergeant Kevin Quinn told the court that on April 20, the postmaster of the vacant post office in Edenderry noticed signs of interference with an interior wall that backs on to the Bank of Ireland.

He alerted the gardai who set up a surveillance operation on the building.

Belfast Telegraph

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