'Somebody is going to be seriously injured or killed' - Retailer speaks out after being targeted by ATM raiders
A CO Antrim retailer, whose business was targeted by ATM raiders earlier this year, says he fears someone will be seriously injured or killed by the criminal gangs behind a spate of attacks.
Walter Millar, who owns the Nisa shop on Brook Street in Ahoghill, was speaking after a renewed wave of weekend raids.
His business was targeted by thieves in the early hours of April 1 this year when the cash machine outside his shop was taken.
A digger, which had been stolen from a nearby building site, was used in the raid, which happened around 3.30am.
Considerable damage was caused to the building and the digger set on fire.
Mr Millar had been marking 30 years in business on the day of the attack, which was the seventh incident of the year.
He initially thought a call about the theft of the ATM, which had only been installed around three years earlier, was an April Fools' Day prank.
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"I got a phone call after three o'clock in the morning to come down to the shop as there was a digger on fire outside it," Mr Millar said.
"When I got down there the digger was burning at the side of the shop and the ATM was gone.
"They had used a digger from a building site down the road, ripped the machine out and set it in the back of car and then drove away leaving a trail of devastation behind them."
Mr Millar said his business has suffered financially as a result with his turnover down by £2,000 a week.
"There is another ATM at a filling station around half a mile away.
"People are going there to lift their cash and that's where they are spending their money, which is understandable."
Mr Millar had been considering reinstalling the ATM machine at his premises but has now decided against the move in case he is targeted again.
"We get frequent requests from people asking if we would consider getting another ATM.
"We had a company out with us a few weeks ago as we were thinking of a new machine due to the demand but what has happened over the weekend has made us think twice about that.
"We won't do it if the thefts are all going to kick off again."
Mr Millar said while he is thankful that to date nobody has been hurt in the ongoing ATM raids, he fears it's only a matter of time.
"If someone had been on the forecourt in Ballynahinch yesterday morning or got hurt, things could have been so much worse.
"With the petrol pumps there it could have led to a fireball.
"I shudder to think what could have happened if anything had gone wrong.
"My worry is that it's only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or worse."
Mr Millar added that his heart goes out to those who have also been targeted by these gangs.
"We were hoping that things had quietened down again so it's very disheartening to hear of more incidents starting up again.
"We genuinely thought that this sort of thing had come to an end and whoever was responsible had been arrested.
"This is a busy time of year for businesses in the weeks before Christmas, so this type of thing is not helpful.
"Knowing personally the damage that can be caused to both business and property, I really do feel for those who are being targeted on an ongoing basis."
Police say that to date 20 people have been arrested in relation to ATM thefts, 11 of whom have been charged, while a number of others remain on bail.