ALERT residents helped to foil a gang escaping with tens of thousands of euro in cash after an ATM was ripped from the front of a bank branch.
Criminals using a powerful digger smashed their way into the Bank of Ireland branch in Tubbercurry, Co Sligo, lifted the cash machine onto a trailer and drove off.
However, residents wakened by the noise of the raid called gardai and the gang abandoned their getaway van and the cash machine 15km away.
Solicitor Eamonn Gallagher, who lives next door to the bank on Teeling Street, said he heard the noise of the bank raid around 5.15am yesterday.
"My wife heard a bit of commotion and thought it was our gates rattling but when she looked out she saw the digger and she kicked me out of bed," he said. "I saw what was going on and called gardai. It was all over in a few minutes."
Several other residents were also calling officers at the same time, it emerged last night.
"I was reared in Tubbercurry when you could leave your key in your door and in your car and what happened here was an all-time low for criminals," said neighbour Gerry Ryan.
The theft took place just 150metres from the town's part-time garda station and officers were sent from Sligo Town 20km away. The stolen digger was left at the scene of the crime, whilst the trailer, van and the unopened ATM were found dumped near Carrowneden 15km away.
"All the money inside the ATM was recovered," said one senior officer. People in the town expressed delight that the ATM was recovered.
Auctioneer Roger McCarrick said: "That's the great thing about people living in the town centre. This type of criminality won't be tolerated."
A garda spokesman appealed for information on the robbery.
Witnesses should contact Ballymote garda station at 0719189500, any garda station, or the Garda Confidential Line on 1800-666-111.