Criminal gang suspected of stealing thousands of pounds after raiding two ATM machines
A CRIMINAL gang operating in Co Down is suspected of having stolen thousands of pounds after raiding two ATM machines within a fortnight.
The cash machine with a "substantial sum of money" was stolen after a raid on a Texaco petrol station on a rural road outside Ballynahinch in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
The gang struck at around 4.30am, forcing their entry into the service station on Crossgar Road through a locked security shutter.
As well as the ATM, thieves made off with a safe.
Detectives in Newry have appealed for information about the incident, which comes just over a week after £17,500 was stolen from an ATM at a convenience shop in Mayobridge.
On that occasion, the money was taken from the Costcutter branch on Hilltown Road between 3am-4am.
The thieves cut electrical wires on the street, ripped out the CCTV and cut holes in the roof.
They then took the money from the ATM before fleeing.
Alcohol and cigarettes were also taken.
Rowallane DUP councillor William Walker said he believes that a single gang connects the two raids within the Newry, Mourne and Down Council area.
"I believe there's a criminal gang operating in the district," he said.
"A substantial amount of money was stolen in these raids which are not just an attack on a business, they are an attack on the whole community.
"This (Texaco) was a rural shop that people go to every day and because of this the business has been unable to open.
"I hope and pray, as an elected representative, that these people are apprehended and feel the full force of the law.
"This type of crime is against business people providing a service. It is good to have business people providing ATMs and, if this continues, people will think twice. They will be fearful they will be next.
"This business has had to close today and has lost hundreds and hundreds of pounds in revenue."
A PSNI spokesman appealed for "anyone who may have witnessed any suspicious persons or vehicles in the Crossgar Road area to contact detectives".