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Security firm engineer jailed for faking his own 'tiger kidnapping'

Laganside Court in Belfast

A FORMER security firm engineer accused of faking his own 'tiger kidnapping' has been jailed for six months for stealing £38,000 from ATM machine in north Belfast.

Judge Gordon Kerr QC told John Patterson the offence was a "breach of trust case'' by an employee on his G4S employers.

The 52 year-old of Carwood Way, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim was recently found guilty by a jury at Belfast Crown Court of one count of burglary.

The charge related to the theft of £38,000 from an ATM bunker at the Cavehill Road Spar in north Belfast on December 12, 2011.

The jury found him not guilty of three further offences of converting criminal property.

Patterson admitted the offences but maintained throughout his trial that he was acting under duress on the orders of masked gunmen.

He further admitted lodging some £12,000 of the cash to bolster his own bank and building society accounts and to making a cash down payment on a new caravan.

But he claimed in his evidence in chief that the money come from his own "emergency kitty" he had built up from doing DIY work and which he kept in an old aftershave box stashed on top of his wardrobe.

It was the prosecution case that Patterson's claims that he was acting under duress were "nothing more than a fabrication.... a made up story.....one he could not keep right''.

A prosecution lawyer told the jury Patterson claimed that on December 6 or 7, 2011, about six day before the burglary at the Cavehill supermarket, he was forced into a car by two masked gunmen.

He claimed they showed him photographs of his wife and family and told him they would be shot if he did not agree to carry out the burglary.

Prosecutor James Johnston also claimed that despite guidelines from G4S on how to deal with such tiger kidnap situations, Patterson did not inform the security firm or work colleagues of the threats.

The jury were read a set of "agreed facts" between the prosecution and the defence, in which the ATM engineer admitted the burglary, but claimed he was acting under duress when he took the keys for the Northern Bank bunker, from the G4S key vault, and used to get the cash.

It was further agreed that following his arrest at his home on January 20, 2012 he told police, he was "assaulted and threatened that his family would be shot or killed".

Patterson also admitted that the following day he lodged money into his accounts and bought a caravan in Portrush with a deposit of £3,500.

Sentencing today Judge Kerr said "there may been an element of pressure in the case'', adding that there had been no explanation given to the court as to where the money had ended up.

He said that as result of the burglary, Patterson had been declared bankrupt and his marriage had ended and he was also suffering ongoing health problems.

A pre-sentence report assessed Patterson a "low likelihood of reoffending''.

As well as having to serve six months behind bars Patterson will serve a similar period on supervised licence.

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