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Republic-based gang blamed for latest smash-and-grab ATM raid

By Adrian Rutherford

A criminal gang based in the Republic has been blamed after another smash-and-grab raid on a cash machine — just yards from the village police station.

The daring thieves hit the Bank of Ireland in Crossmaglen, south Armagh, around 6am on Saturday, using a stolen digger to rip the village’s only ATM from the wall.

A tractor and trailer used by the gang were parked across the road in an apparent attempt to slow down the police response.

SDLP Assembly Member Dominic Bradley said it appeared to be a highly-organised robbery.

Today the Belfast Telegraph can reveal there have been 23 attempted raids on cash machines across Northern Ireland since last March.

The details — released to this newspaper under Freedom of Information — map out for the first time the criminals’ reach across the country.

Many of the raids have been in border areas, fuelling speculation that gangs may be crossing the border from the South.

Dissident republicans have also been linked to the raids.

In the latest robbery the tractor and digger used by the gang were stolen in Ardee, Co Louth, last Thursday night.

The thieves used the digger to remove the ATM, loading it onto a flatbed truck.

They also set light to the stolen digger and tractor.

The village’s SDLP councillor Geraldine Donnelly said the vehicles may have been used to block access from the nearby police station.

“They blocked the Culaville Road with the low-loader, which they set alight,” she said.

“It seems they were blocking the road to stop the police, making sure they had a clear run. There has been a whole series of these incidents and you wonder why something cannot be done to deter these thieves.”

Mr Bradley said it was the fifth such raid in his Newry and Armagh constituency in recent months. He recently met with Security Minister Paul Goggins to discuss the ongoing ATM robberies.

“The robbery at Crossmaglen indicates the people responsible are planning these raids with a fair degree of precision,” he said.

“I have asked Mr Goggins to encourage banks to use extra security measures to ensure that those involved in these robberies don’t benefit from them.”

The PSNI said 13 ATMs have now been stolen in raids within the last year, however they have yet to make any arrests in connection with the crimes.

Last month it was announced that less money was to be stored in machines deemed vulnerable to attacks.

A reward of up to £25,000 has also been offered by cash machine operator Link for anyone who can help catch the people behind the robbers.

Detectives in Newry have appealed for anyone who saw a green John Deere tractor or orange Fiat Hitachi track digger to contact them on 0845 600 8000.

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