I was kidnapped off street at gunpoint and forced to rob ATM: theft accused

John Patterson took �38,000 in �20 notes from a Northern Bank ATM in north Belfast
John Patterson took �38,000 in �20 notes from a Northern Bank ATM in north Belfast

An engineer with the security firm G4S who once foiled three armed robberies, has told a court how he thought he was going to be shot dead after being kidnapped off the street, and forced days later to burgle an ATM of nearly £40,000.

The 52-year-old engineer, John Patterson from Carwood Way in Newtownabbey, was giving evidence at his Belfast Crown Court trial where he denies a total of four charges – the December 2011 burglary of a Northern Bank ATM, and three of converting criminal property by lodging almost £9,000 into his accounts and over £3,500 as a deposit on a caravan.

Patterson began telling defence QC Charles MacCreanor that while on cash delivering duties he was involved in three attempts to rob him, where “I actually saved the money”.

On one occasion the attacker had a machete, and on another was armed with an AK47 assault rifle.

He told the jury of six women and six men that he was walking to the shops either on December 6 or 7, 2011, when he was ordered into the back of a Vauxhall Cavalier by a short masked man with a handgun.

In the car he was beaten around the head before being shown photographs of his wife, stepdaughter and daughter.

He was then given instructions to take the keys to an ATM ‘bunker’ attached to a north Belfast supermarket, and to empty it of cash.

“I was only in the car for about five minutes, but it seemed longer. They said to me that they (wife and family) were going to be killed if I didn’t get the money. I didn’t think I was getting out of the car alive,” said Patterson.

The engineer did as he was told, and on December 12 was picked up again, this time by arrangement, and driven to the Cavehill Road Spar supermarket and the “ATM bank, as they called it”.

Again he said he “thought I was going to die, and I didn’t want to die,” so he took the plastic shopping bag given to him and emptied the ATM of £38,000 in £20 notes.

Patterson said that the following day he paid £8,800 into either his bank or building society accounts, and that about four months later paid a £3,520 cash deposit on a carvan.

The monies, he claimed, came from DIY jobs he had done and that the cash, saved up in an old aftershave box he kept on top of his wardrobe, was his “emergency kitty”.

Under cross-examination from prosecutor James Johnston, Patterson said he’d lost his home and wife because of what had happened, and maintained that his “life was threatened ... I was told I was going to be killed ... I was forced to take money from the ATM”.

However, he refuted suggestions from Mr Johnston that his was a “made-up story”.

The case continues on Thursday.