Police believe gang operating Cross Border - Court told

POLICE believe five people charged in connection with the attempted theft of an ATM machine in Dungiven earlier this week are part of a criminal gang operating north and south of the border.

The two men, two youths and a woman were all arrested in Newtownstewart following the botched theft attempt on Monday.

The five are all members of the Travelling Community with addresses in Daisyfield, Derry. They were refused bail when they appeared before Strabane Magistrates Court yesterday morning.

Thomas Ward, Bernard McDonagh Senior, Margaret Cash, a 17-year-old male and a 15-year-old male face a number of charges in relation to burglaries and thefts across the North West over the past month. Among them is the attempted theft of an ATM machine from a post office on Dungiven’s Main Street on Monday.

Opposing bail, Detective Constable Carol Suitor told the court that she believed she could connect all five defendants to the attempted Dungiven ATM theft. She also said a footprint left at the scene matched that of a shoe worn by Thomas McDonagh.

DC Suitor said it was the belief of the PSNI that all defendants had strong links to a criminal gang behind a string of crimes across Ireland, north and south, in recent months.

She told the court that when apprehended, a number of tools, including metal cutting equipment, a stanley screw driver and heavy duty gloves were found in a Ford Focus being driven by one of the defendants. Meanwhile a sledgehammer was seized from a Shogun being driven by Bernard McDonagh Sr.

DC Suitor said she could further connect the five to thefts of a Mitsubishi Shogun and a Ford Focus from Bob Mullan Motors on July 24.

A handprint matching one of the youth defendants was found on a rear light of the Focus, DC Suitor said. It may have been left when he tried to change the number plates, she explained.

The officer confirmed also that she could connect the defendants to break-ins at Lidl stores in Derry and Strabane during which cash and vouchers were taken. Margaret Cash is further charged with trying to buy electrical equipment to the value of £350 with the stolen vouchers.

Detective Constable Suitor told the court that all defendants had only moved to Derry in the past six weeks. The police believe this may have been because of the Gardai attention they have attracted in connection with other recent crimes in the South.

Solicitors Michael McGee, Stephen Mooney and John McCafferty all expressed concerns at the charges being pursued by the PSNI against their clients. Bail applications however were all denied by District Judge Mr Noel Dunlop.

The five were remanded in custody to appear by video link at Derry Magistrates Court on August 18.