Traders ‘quaking in their boots’

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th April 2019''The scene at O'Kane's filling station outside Dungiven, Co. Derry, where an ATM was stolen with the aid of a digger in the early hours of Sunday morning. ''Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th April 2019''The scene at O'Kane's filling station outside Dungiven, Co. Derry, where an ATM was stolen with the aid of a digger in the early hours of Sunday morning. ''Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Retailers housing ATM machines are growing increasingly worried that they may be targeted next, it has been claimed, after criminal gangs targeted a shop in Dungiven.

In the eighth incident of its kind so far this year, a heavy duty construction vehicle was stolen from building site in the County Derry town and used to extract an ATM machine from O’Kane’s Centra store during the early hours of Sunday morning.

Detective Inspector Richard Thornton described the culprits as “brazen thieves” and said the key to getting ahead of these criminals, was getting information from the public. He said “The theft from the filling station on Feeny Road was reported to us just before 4:30am. A digger, believed to have been taken from a site a short distance away, was used to rip the machine from the wall at the side of the shop leaving substantial damage to the building. On this occasion, the digger was not set alight and was located at the scene.”

Glyn Roberts, Chief Executive, Retail NI, said local businesses, particularly those in rural areas were very worried. “A lot of our members are quaking in their boots thinking, who is going to be next?” he said. “The impact is huge on individual retailers and small business owners who give back a lot to the local community. The danger is if these gangs are not caught and dealt with, we are looking at a situation where large parts of rural Northern Ireland will not have access to a cash machine and, therefore, cash, which is not good news, particularly for those on benefits and pensions.”

Sinn Féin Faughan Councillor Paul Fleming said: “Many shop owners are now living in constant dread that their premises may be next. I would urge the PSNI to increase resources to their dedicated task-force probing ATM thefts in order to tackle this latest spate of robberies across the North.

“There is a real concern among communities that these events will lead to the removal of vital ATM facilities from rural towns and villages, areas that have already had other services withdrawn.”

Police have urged anyone with information to call 101, quoting reference number 357 of 07/04/19 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.