Witness appeal into attempted theft and theft of ATM machines - PSNI investigate whether attacks in Ballynahinch and Belfast are linked

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Detectives investigating the theft of an ATM machine in Belfast and the attempted theft of an ATM machine in Ballynahinch are appealing for witnesses and information.

Detective Inspector Richard Thornton said: "Our investigations into both of these incidents are at a very early stage, and it is unclear at this time if they are linked.

READ: Attempted ATM theft at petrol station closes busy NI road

Petrol station forecourt roof collapses during ATM raid

"In the first report this morning (Monday 18th November) made to police at 5:28am, it was reported a bulldozer was being used in an attempt to rip an ATM machine from the wall of a petrol station on the Belfast Road, Ballynahinch.

"A silver-coloured Volkswagen Passat car with a trailer was also reported at the scene.

"Those involved in the attempted theft were reported to have fled the scene, empty handed, but having caused substantial damage to the premises, and to the roof of the forecourt.

"At approximately 6:55am we received a report of a car, matching the description of the Passat reported at the scene, on fire in the Queens Park area of Saintfield.

"I want to appeal to anyone who was travelling on the Belfast Road this morning, between 5:15am and 5:30am, and who saw a Silver Passat, or who believes they saw this car travelling towards Saintfield between 5:30am and 7am to get in touch with us.

"Did you capture footage of this vehicle on your dash cam? If you saw any suspicious activity, including vehicles or persons, in these areas this morning please, pick up the phone and tell us what you know.

"This was a brazen and despicable attack by those involved who have caused serious disruption to the business affected and to its customers. This attack has also caused widespread disruption to people using the Belfast Road, which remains closed as we continue with our enquiries."

Attempted theft of ATM in Ballynahinch

Attempted theft of ATM in Ballynahinch

He added that in a separate incident, reported around 7.55am today, "a member of staff arrived at their workplace on Saintfield Road in Belfast to discover entry had been forced to the premises and an ATM machine that had been taken".

"We believe this occurred sometime between Friday evening (15th November) and the time it was reported to us. I would appeal to anyone who saw anything suspicious in this area to please contact us.

“ATM theft and attempted theft is not a victimless crime and these attacks cause untold loss and disruption to people and businesses, many of whom depend on their local ATM provision for access to cash.

"I want to take this opportunity to urge people to continue to be vigilant, and report any suspicious activity they see in their area.

"If your suspicions are aroused phone police immediately. Time is of the essence in catching these criminals. No matter how insignificant you think it is, your phone call to us could be key to catching the criminals responsible.”

Anyone with information about either of these incidents is urged to call 101, quoting reference numbers 181 of 18/11/19 or 252 of 18/11/19.

Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 which is 100% anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop crime.

Meanwhile, on Saturday night, thieves tried but failed to steal a cash machine from Belfast City Hospital.

Attempted theft of ATM in Ballynahinch

Attempted theft of ATM in Ballynahinch

PSNI Detective Inspector Richard Thornton said: "ATM theft and attempted theft is not a victimless crime and these attacks cause untold loss and disruption to people and businesses, many of whom depend on their local ATM provision for access to cash.

"I want to take this opportunity to urge people to continue to be vigilant, and report any suspicious activity they see in their area.

"If your suspicions are aroused phone police immediately. Time is of the essence in catching these criminals. No matter how insignificant you think it is, your phone call to us could be key to catching the criminals responsible."

The attacks are the latest in a series of ATM raids in Northern Ireland this year.

Industry organisation Retail NI condemned the latest attacks.

Chief executive Glyn Roberts said: "Words fail to describe my anger at this disgraceful attempted ATM robbery on one of our members.

"This has caused extensive damage to one of Ballynahinch's largest retailers in the run-up to Christmas.

"This is an independent retailer, who provides an invaluable service to the local community, awakened from his sleep to be told his business is smashed up.

"It is also a new low for these robbers to attack health centres to steal ATMs.

"We would urge all businesses and organisations who have external ATMs to be vigilant and urge members of the public with any information to contact the PSNI."