Northern Ireland-based crime gang of eastern Europeans behind Donegal raids
A gang of highly-trained former army personnel from eastern Europe are suspected of being behind a spate of high-tech robberies in Donegal.
The Garda believes the gang is based in Northern Ireland and is coming across the border, carrying out the raids and then skipping back.
The thieves struck again for the ninth time yesterday in the early hours of the morning.
They broke into a service station at Breenagh in Glenswilly after cutting telephone wires and bypassing alarms.
However, the gang was forced to flee empty-handed after being disturbed.
The same group is believed to be behind the robberies of a number of premises across Donegal including a jewellery store, a post office, two supermarkets and three service stations.
The gang has struck in several towns including Letterkenny, Ramelton, Killygordon, Dungloe, Glenswilly, Donegal town and Carrigart. Its total haul is believed to be well in excess of €100,000 (£88,223) comprising of cash, whiskey and jewellery.
On a number of occasions gang members have stolen the CCTV systems so they could not be identified.
They use power tools stolen from building sites and often leave them behind when a raid has been completed. Extra Garda manpower has been drafted in to the county in a bid to track the raiders down.
Garda crime prevention officer Sgt Paul Wallace said the criminals seemd to have a good knowledge of the premises targeted.
"These people would appear to have a certain amount of expertise when carrying out these raids," he said.
"We are appealing to business owners to review their security arrangements where necessary. Anybody with any information is asked to contact their local Garda station."
It is understood the gang members park their getaway vehicles away from the targeted locations and walk through fields to avoid being detected once inside business premises.
During two of the break-ins, the gang removed safes from the premises.
In at least four of the raids, they gained entry by cutting through the roof of the buildings.
In the raid on a supermarket in Dungloe, they used a stolen van in order to transport alcohol and boxes of razors to another vehicle before making their escape.
The gang's most daring raid was at McCullagh's Jewellers in Letterkenny Shopping Centre.
The raiders managed to create around four holes in the roof of the centre before locating the jewellery store.
They then dropped down and raided it.