Northern Ireland news

Northern Bank heist was biggest robbery ever in Ireland or Britain

The former Northern Bank on Donegall Square in Belfast
Connla Young

THE Northern Bank heist was the biggest robbery ever carried out in Ireland or Britain

Within days the PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde and the British and Irish governments had all blamed the IRA for taking the £26.5m while Sinn Fein and the IRA's ‘Army Council' denied any involvement.

The sequence of events in the hours before the robbery began on Sunday December 19 2004 when armed men took over the homes of Northern Bank employees Chris Ward at Poleglass in west Belfast and Kevin McMullan at Loughinisland in Co Down.

The two men were later told to go to work at Donegall Square while their loved ones were held hostage.

In an apparent dry run more than £1m was placed in a holdall by Mr Ward and handed over to the robbers.

Later that day around £18m was loaded onto trolleys at the bank by Mr Ward and Mr McMullan and transferred to a waiting van.

The van later returned to the bank and the gang made off for a second time with £7m in used notes.

Days after the raid £50,000 was recovered from the PSNIs country club at New Forge Lane in south Belfast.

More than £2m was also later recovered in Co Cork two months later, including £60,000 in Northern Bank notes.

Four men including Chris Ward were later charged in connection with the robbery.

All charges against the three other suspects were dropped while a Mr Ward was acquitted after a trial in 2008.

Mystery continues to surround who was responsible for the robbery while the majority of the cash taken has never been recovered.

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