Northern Ireland

Keady ATM: County Armagh cash machine targeted in gas explosion

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Media captionThe ATM in Keady was targeted in the early hours of Wednesday

Thieves have stolen money from a cash machine in Keady, County Armagh, by setting up a gas explosion.

It happened at Rice's supermarket at about 02:15 BST on Wednesday. The blast damaged the ATM's front panel and door.

It is the third such incident in Northern Ireland since May and police said there have been more than 60 in Great Britain over the past 12 months.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said the "very dangerous" explosions were the work of organised criminals.

'Volatile'

Det Ch Supt Roy McComb said: "Clearly anybody who is determined to put some sort of an explosive device against public property causes a risk to themselves but also to the wider public and to police responding to that."

The detective told the BBC's Evening Extra programme: "Commonly used gas that would be available to the public is being pumped into these ATMs and then a spark - some sort of initiation device - is being applied to it and it is causing a very volatile, very dangerous explosion."

Mr McComb said similar raids have been happening not only across the UK but also throughout Europe.

He added that the PSNI was disappointed but "not surprised" that the practice had spread to Northern Ireland.

In May, an ATM was stolen in Carrickmore, County Tyrone. Earlier this month a similar incident happened in nearby Hamiltonsbawn.

'Scorch marks'

The manager of the shop in Keady said he was not sure how much money had been stolen in Wednesday's raid.

Mr McComb said he could not confirm the amount due to commercial confidentiality but said that the stolen cash is likely to bear scorch marks as a result of the blast.

He appealed to shopkeepers, bank staff and anyone handling cash to contact police if they received money that appeared scorched or burnt.

Mr McComb said the scene of the raid was being examined and that CCTV footage would form part of the investigation.

He added that the theft had been planned well in advance.

"It is clear that there is an orchestrated level of criminality here. These things don't happen momentarily, they take a bit of time for people to work around ATMs, to spend time pumping gas into these ATMs and to set up controlled explosions."

The detective also appealed to members of the public to report their concerns if they witnessed suspicious behaviour around ATMs, particularly people "acting suspiciously with gas tanks, wires and pipes".

'Significant disruption'

SDLP councillor Thomas O'Hanlon has condemned those behind the Keady raid.

"Just after 2am an explosion was heard in Keady by residents. It soon became apparent the explosion was caused by those seeking to remove a cash machine located at a supermarket on Victoria Street in the town," he said.

"Not only have they got away with money, but they have caused significant disruption in the town as the police operation resulted in Victoria Street, which is the main route to Newry and Newtownhamilton, being closed for a period of time."

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