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A Van, An Excavator And A Slew Of ATM Thefts, Northern Ireland Police Plead For Help

CCTV footage shows how three men clawed an ATM out of a wall and made off with a cash box in under five minutes. It is the eighth such incident in Northern Ireland since the start of the year.
CCTV/Screenshot by NPR
CCTV footage shows how three men clawed an ATM out of a wall and made off with a cash box in under five minutes. It is the eighth such incident in Northern Ireland since the start of the year.

Thieves in Northern Ireland have taken the idea of a smash and grab to a whole new level in a recent spate of brazen robberies.

With the help of a stolen excavator and a van with an ATM-size hole cut out of its roof, teams of thieves are clawing entire cash boxes out of local businesses and disappearing into the night.

Footage of the most recent theft on Sunday shows at least three men involved in that raid. One drives an excavator (stolen from a nearby construction site) toward an ATM built into the exterior wall of a shop outside of Dungiven. Over and over again he tears at the wall until most of that part of the building is destroyed. He then scoops up the ATM, swivels the arm over to a nearby van that just happens to have a hole cut out of its roof, and with the help of his two accomplices, sporting balaclavas, dumps the booty inside.

The entire endeavor takes about four minutes and 10 seconds.

All three eventually get away and neither the van nor the ATM protruding out of it has been seen again.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said the Dungiven incident is the eighth ATM theft this year.

"As the weekend approaches, I want to reiterate our appeal to people across Northern Ireland to remain vigilant and alert to any activity that is unusual, out of the ordinary or suspicious, especially the movement of plant machinery late at night or early in the morning," Detective Chief Inspector David Henderson said in a statementFriday.

Henderson added that the recent attacks on ATMs will have devastating and long lasting effects on the rural communities where most have taken place.

"The livelihoods of our local businesses are being jeopardised by the thefts and they are forced to face the additional costs involved in repairing their premises. The populations served by the ATMs, which are often rural, are being denied access to cash facilities. Farmers and construction firms are suffering the loss of expensive equipment and machinery, a loss from which some will struggle to recover," he said.

Dungiven will be particularly hard hit. The last bank in the town shuttered its doors last year, leaving the rural community entirely reliant on a handful of ATMs "including one that charges hefty fees," The Guardian reported.

"Some people were joking they should've taken that one," said construction worker Enda Kealey, according to the newspaper.

Last month, Northern Ireland police established a task force made up of detectives from the organized crime branch to track down the criminals involved.

"We are actively looking at it being several gangs involved," Henderson told reporters at a news conference, the BBC reported.

It is unclear how much money has been stolen so far.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.