Belfast Telegraph

Leader of gang who murdered Garda linked to £60k ATM raid

Gardai at the scene of the ATM robbery in Castleblaney
Gardai at the scene of the ATM robbery in Castleblaney
Garda Adrian Donohoe

By Ken Foy

The leader of a gang involved in the murder of an Irish policeman is being investigated for a €70,000 (£60,000) ATM robbery.

Around €50,000 (£43,000) worth of damage was caused when a cash machine was torn from the wall of an AIB Bank with a stolen digger shortly after 3am in Co Monaghan yesterday.

CCTV shows a tractor and trailer carrying the digger arriving on Main Street in Castleblayney.

Gardai believe a number of different cross-border gangs have been involved in the recent heists.

Eight ATMs have been stolen in seven separate incidents in Northern Ireland so far this year, while a further heist was foiled in January.

There have been four such heists in the Republic in the past year.

Last night, a senior source revealed detectives were focusing on the leader of a south Armagh/north Louth gang - a chief suspect in the murder of Garda Adrian Donohoe, but who has never been arrested in relation to the crime.

"He is being looked at very much in relation to the Co Monaghan crime, but his crew are suspected of at least one of the other ATM heists that have happened across the border, and in all probability a few more as well," the source said.

"Obviously, this is a very dangerous criminal gang who were involved in the murder of a garda. They also have close links to dissident republicans.

"They have been on a cross-border crimewave for many years at this stage."

The audacious gang used a tractor and trailer to block the road from the nearby local garda station, located just 500 yards away, while carrying out the crime, which took less than four minutes.

Local garda units are understood to have responded to the raid within minutes, but the criminals had already fled.

Gardai were alerted to the cash machine theft at around 3am and came across a John Deere tractor and a trailer blocking York Street.

When officers arrived at the bank, the cash machine had been ripped from the building and the digger's engine was still running.

Gardai said a dark-coloured 4x4 vehicle, with the cash machine on a trailer, travelled in the direction of Co Armagh, but there have been no arrests so far in the case, which is also being investigated by the PSNI.

So far one man has been charged with the murder of Detective Garda Donohoe.

He is due to face trial in the Republic later this year.

Despite the garda attention on him, the ATM robbery gang leader, who has not been arrested, is still involved in armed robberies and thefts on both sides of the border.

"He is regularly stopped and searched, but he cannot be arrested unless he is caught committing an offence. It is very frustrating, but that is the reality of the situation," a source said.

"Investigators are in no doubt that this individual was present at the scene on the night of the murder."

No one was injured in Tuesday morning's crime.

Last Monday, a digger was used to remove a cash machine from the wall of a shop in Ahoghill, Co Antrim.

After that, a senior PSNI officer raised the possibility dissidents might be benefiting from the series of raids.

Detective Chief Inspector David Henderson said they were looking at "several gangs" being involved in the crimes.

He said: "We have no evidence that paramilitaries are involved, but all crime in Northern Ireland usually goes back to paramilitaries, whether committed by them or whether they tax the perpetrators of the crime and take some the criminal assets from them."

Towns hit by gangs since March last year include Keady in Co Armagh, Ballyclare in Co Antrim, Ballybay in Co Monaghan, Fintona in Co Tyrone, Moira in Co Down, Antrim town, Omagh and Dungannon in Co Tyrone, Newtownabbey in Co Antrim, Irvinestown in Co Fermanagh, and Ahoghill, before Castleblayney yesterday.

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