Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Robbers threaten shopkeeper at knifepoint in early morning raid

Robbers threatened a shopkeeper at knifepoint before stealing cash from his border store in an early morning raid on Tuesday last, The Examiner has learned.

Peter Finnegan, the manager of XL Owen Watters shop at Annavackey, Hackballscross, was opening up the premises around 7.20am when a car pulled up alongside the store.  Three men got out of the vehicle and assaulted him before forcing him inside the shop.  The shaken shopkeeper told The Examiner that despite his attempts to fight back, he was overpowered and a knife was held to his throat as the robbers demanded money.  They subsequently made off with a sum of cash taken from two tills in the store.

Recovering from the injuries he received during the violent struggle, Mr Finnegan says he is thankful that his wife did not open the premises instead that morning and that no-one else was injured in the attack.

“Sometimes there would be a few customers in the shop around that time, so I suppose it’s a good thing that no-one else was there as who knows what might have happened,” he said.

“As a small local shop, it’s unfortunate that we are open to this sort of crime.  We try to protect ourselves as best we can and we are stepping up our security measures all the time.  The gang were caught on the CCTV we have inside and outside of the store and the Gardai are examining that to try to identify them.”

The business has been targeted by thieves several times over the years, and Mr Finnegan says his message to shopkeepers and members of the public alike would be to “remain vigilant”.

“I would urge shopkeepers and business people to be on the lookout for anything suspicious at all times.  There’s a misconception that these type of things happen mostly at night time but, especially during the dark winter months, early mornings are a key time for thieves to strike so people need to take precautions, be vigilant and look out for each other as well.”

Mr Finnegan says Gardai have confirmed that the car used in the robbery, a Northern registration VW Golf, was stolen in Armagh in the early hours of Tuesday morning and may have been used during an incident in Keady a short time after being stolen.

It is also believed the same gang were responsible for an attempted robbery of Devlin’s Costcutter at Clonalig, located just a few miles from Watters, which happened minutes earlier.

Manager of Devlin’s Jim McConnon told The Examiner that two men entered the store and one of the men, wearing a ski mask and wielding a wheel brace, jumped across the counter to where he stood.

The robber attempted to strike Mr McConnon with the wheel brace, just narrowly missing, and the pair grappled before the intruder was eventually overpowered.

During the scuffle, Mr McConnon managed to remove the man’s mask before propelling him out of the shop as his accomplice made a hasty retreat to the waiting vehicle.

The pair fled empty-handed while Mr McConnon and another staff member on the premises at the time were uninjured.

Police on both sides of the border are investigating and Gardaí are examining CCTV footage obtained from the XL Owen Watters store.