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Cash machine explosion the work of “organised criminals”

June 30, 2014

By Christine Keighery

Police have described thieves who set up a gas explosion at an ATM in Keady last week as “organised criminals.”

The explosion happened at Rice’s supermarket in the village around 2.15 am on Wednesday.  The blast damaged the ATM’s front panel and door and allowed thieves to ransack machine, making off with a substantial amount of cash.

The audacious raid is the third incident of its kind in Northern Ireland since last month and police confirmed there have been more than 60 similar incidents in the UK and Europe over the past 12 months. Earlier this month a similar incident happened at a Costcutter ATM in nearby Hamiltonsbawn.

Det Ch Supt Roy McComb, Head of Organised Crime Branch, said: “Clearly anybody who is determined to put some sort of an explosive device against public property causes a risk to themselves but also to the wider public and to police responding to that.”

The detective said commonly used gas that is available to the public is pumped into the ATM machines and once an ignition device is applied, it causes “a very volatile, very dangerous explosion.”

Mr McComb added that the stolen money is likely to bear scorch marks as a result of the blast and appealed to anyone handling cash to contact police if they receive money with scorch or burn marks apparent.

He confirmed that the scene of the raid was being examined and that CCTV footage would form part of the investigation.

“It is clear that there is an orchestrated level of criminality here” said Mr McComb.

“These things don’t happen momentarily, they take a bit of time for people to work around ATMs, to spend time pumping gas into these ATMs and to set up controlled explosions.”

The detective also appealed to members of the public to report their concerns if they witnessed suspicious behaviour around ATMs, particularly people “acting suspiciously with gas tanks, wires and pipes”.

Detective Chief Superintendent Roy McComb, head of Organised Crime Branch, said: “These types of incidents present a serious risk to the community.

“Our advice to the public is to avoid any ATM that appears to have been tampered with and, in particular, do not approach any which has hoses, wires or other items leading from it. Call the police immediately on 999.”

SDLP councillor Thomas O’Hanlon condemned those behind the Keady raid.

“Not only have they got away with money, but they have caused significant disruption in the town as the police operation resulted in Victoria Street, which is the main route to Newry and Newtownhamilton, being closed for a period of time,” he said

The councillor urged anyone with information about the incident, or who saw anyone locally acting suspicious in and around Victoria Street or Bridge Street in recent weeks to come forward “so those responsible can be brought before the courts”.

Meanwhile a man accused of mounting the bomb attack on the ATM machine in Hamiltonsbawn has been refused bail.

A High court judge ruled that Ioan Anton, 37, must remain in custody amid claims he used explosives in a bid to steal the contents of the Costcutter ATM.

No money was stolen in the Hamiltonsbawn raid but around £1,000 was destroyed.

Anton, a Romanian national with an address at Brega Hamlet Lane, Balbriggan, was arrested along with a co-accused after police stopped a Volkswagen Passat in Keady 12 hours after the attack in Hamiltonsbawn on 5 June.

The accused was linked by CCTV footage to the purchase of gloves and wiring from a B&Q store in Dublin the day before.

Refusing bail due to risks the accused could flee or re-offend, Mr Justice Horner said: “This was a very serious incident involving a homemade bomb in order to obtain access to an ATM.”

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