Petrol station forecourt roof knocked down in ATM raid
Police said it was too early to establish whether the attack was linked to other thefts.
A petrol station’s forecourt roof was knocked down in one of a series of ATM raids in Northern Ireland.
In the other attacks, a cash machine was stolen from a health centre on the outskirts of Belfast and an attempt was made to steal one from Belfast City Hospital.
Extensive damage was caused during the raid on the petrol station in Ballynahinch, Co Down, at around 5.30am on Monday.
The thieves used a shovel/bulldozer type vehicle stolen from a nearby quarry in a failed bid to rip the ATM from the wall of Carlisles’ filling station and convenience store on the Belfast Road.
They struck the forecourt roof with the bucket of the vehicle as they tried to flee the scene.
A silver-coloured Volkswagen Passat car with a trailer attached was also reportedly involved in the attempted robbery.
A car matching that description was later found on fire at Queen’s Park in Saintfield.
A recovery crane removed the crashed roof from forecourt on Monday afternoon.
Quarry worker Gerry Cunningham said one of his colleagues had a lucky escape when part of the roof struck his car.
“He was in his car at Carlisles’ garage and he actually saw the quarry shovel going back and forward into the garage and the next thing the bucket was up on the shovel and they hit the canopy and the canopy came down and actually hit my work colleague’s car,” he said.
“Lucky no one was hurt, that’s the main thing.”
Police described the raid as a “brazen and despicable attack”.
The road was closed through Monday, causing major traffic disruption.
In regard to the other incidents, police said an ATM was stolen at some point over weekend from inside a health centre at Knockbracken Healthcare Park in Saintfield Road, close to Belfast.
Police said it was too early to establish whether the health centre and petrol station attacks were linked.
Meanwhile, on Saturday night, thieves tried but failed to steal a cash machine from Belfast City Hospital.
ATM theft and attempted theft is not a victimless crime and these attacks cause untold loss and disruption to people and businesses PSNI Detective Inspector Richard Thornton
Police in South Armagh are also investigating the theft of a Massey Ferguson tractor and low loader that were subsequently used in an attack on an ATM machine across the border at Dunleer in Co Louth.
The vehicles were stolen from the Concession Road area of Cullaville sometime between 2.30pm on Friday and 2.40am on Saturday.
The low loader was recovered at the scene of the ATM raid and the tractor at Hackballscross. Both have since been returned to their respective owners.
Commenting on the spate of attacks, PSNI Detective Inspector Richard Thornton said: “ATM theft and attempted theft is not a victimless crime and these attacks cause untold loss and disruption to people and businesses, many of whom depend on their local ATM provision for access to cash.
“I want to take this opportunity to urge people to continue to be vigilant, and report any suspicious activity they see in their area.
“If your suspicions are aroused phone police immediately. Time is of the essence in catching these criminals. No matter how insignificant you think it is, your phone call to us could be key to catching the criminals responsible.”
The attacks are the latest in a series of ATM raids in Northern Ireland this year.
Industry organisation Retail NI condemned the latest incidents.
Chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “Words fail to describe my anger at this disgraceful attempted ATM robbery on one of our members.
“This has caused extensive damage to one of Ballynahinch’s largest retailers in the run-up to Christmas.
“This is an independent retailer, who provides an invaluable service to the local community, awakened from his sleep to be told his business is smashed up.
“It is also a new low for these robbers to attack health centres to steal ATMs.
“We would urge all businesses and organisations who have external ATMs to be vigilant and urge members of the public with any information to contact the PSNI.”