Northern Ireland news

Man accused of stealing cash filled ATM from Richhill petrol station

The scene after a digger was stolen and then used to rip out a cash machine from a filling station in Richhill

A MAN has appeared in court accused of stealing a cash filled ATM in what a judge said was “clearly a sophisticated operation”.

Newry Magistrates Court heard that in less than 60 seconds a stolen digger drove across a forecourt, demolished an ATM building, scooped up the machine, loaded it onto a trailer which was driven away, leaving a trial of damage that will cost around £100,000 to fix.

An officer said "this has the trappings of a professional grouping who knew what they were at".

Appearing at court by videolink from police custody, Sean Paul Donnelly (22) was charged with three counts relating to an incident at Fruitfields Petrol Station on December 20. He was also charged with possessing a firearm under suspicious circumstances and without a certificate on December 21 following searches at his home on Navan Street in Armagh.

Police told court they believed Donnelly “is a committed member of an organised crime gang" and revealed it is the second time the station's ATM on Portadown Road in Richhill has been targeted.

In this case, police were alerted to an alarm going off at around 4.45am. Police at the scene spotted two men, one of whom got out of a white Ford Transit van and set fire to the digger, stolen from across the road, before the van was driven away.

Thanks to a tracking device on the ATM, the detective said officers from the Armed Response Unit were able to trace it a field on the Moy Road where they disturbed two males who were “about to crack it open with an angle grinder".

The ATM, still filled with cash, was recovered but the two men ran off.

The officer told the court that the field where the ATM was found was part of a farm owned by the defendant’s grandparents while a black BMW X5 found parked less than half a mile away had a receipt for a gas top up, purchased the day before the theft.

When Donnelly’s home was searched, police uncovered a key to the Ford van used to tow the trailer with the stolen ATM on board.

It was during those searches that officers found a gas powered BB gun hidden behind the microwave.

Arrested and interviewed, Donnelly claimed he had sold the black BMW X5 the week before could not provide details as to who bought the vehicle.

Defence solicitor John McAtamney argued there was no direct evidence or forensics to link Donnelly to the incident.

District Judge Eamon King said: "There’s no doubt that this was a well organised, planned and executed operation."

He refused bail, remanded Donnelly into custody and adjourned the case to January 17.

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