Brazen ATM robbers demolish bank but flee empty-handed
Gardai at the scene of an attempted ATM robbery in Tinahely, Co Wicklow. Raiders used a tractor, stolen from Tom Byrne (above left), to demolish much of the bank building during the incident. Garry O'Neill
A BRAZEN hole-in-the-wall gang shoved a gun in a man's face as he filmed them tearing down a bank building while they attempted to steal an ATM.
The raiders eventually fled the scene at Market Square in picturesque Tinahely, Co Wicklow, but not before they caused hundreds of thousands of euro worth of damage.
When gardai were alerted, they noticed the air had been let out of the tyres of the patrol car by the gang.
Moments earlier, the gang literally reduced the Bank of Ireland building in the town centre to rubble.
Despite their efforts, however, it appears the raiders were forced to flee empty-handed.
"We can't confirm this yet but that is what we believe," Inspector Gerry Connolly told the Irish Independent.
"There is still a lot of rubble here and we can't move in yet because the digger they used to commit the crime is still in situ."
Local residents reported the ATM had been out of service in the run-up to the bank holiday weekend.
Six men were seen using a digger to remove the bank machine from the wall outside the Bank of Ireland in Tinahely at around 5.45am yesterday.
Their daring plan failed after the tractor flung one of the raiders into the air.
The digger used in the raid was too heavy for the trailer and tractor -- causing the machine to topple.
Locals believe the thief driving the tractor may have been injured.
Detectives will gain more information today as they continue to sift through the rubble.
One courageous local man who captured the raid on film was threatened with a gun and told to mind his own business after the gang spotted him.
The businessman was in shock last night and did not wish to comment on the matter.
The vehicles used by the raiders in Tinahely had been stolen from the locality overnight.
A black Mitsubishi Pajero with the registration 03 CN 712 was taken from Tullow, Co Carlow. A silver Toyota Landcruiser with the registration 06 KK 946 was stolen from Castledermot, Co Kildare.
A tractor and trailer unit -- with the registration 90 WX 4156 -- was also taken for the raid from Clonegal, Co Wexford, along with a Koulco long-armed digger.
All the stolen vehicles were abandoned at the bank building as the thieves made their escape in a dark car. The getaway car headed for the Aughrim road.
Tom Byrne, who owned the digger stolen by the gang, said the machinery was taken at around 3.45am from Clonegal.
"The digger was on the site around two-and-a-half miles from Tinahely, close to the showground field. We have been very fussy about locking it up for the last 18 months. But these guys drove through the gates and smashed the glass in the cab.
"They seemed to have some knowledge of diggers because they didn't wreck the ignition and switched it on without much bother."
Mr Byrne said the driver of the tractor was "tossed out on the street" because the digger was too heavy for the trailer used by the gang. "I'd imagine there were serious injuries done to that man," he said.
Around €1,500 worth of damage was done to Mr Byrne's digger.
Speculation mounted about the identity of the gang last night, believed to be made up of men from the south east who are involved with Dublin criminals.
Local TD Billy Timmins condemned the incident as "outrageous". He called on "all the resources possible" to be given to investigating gardai.
"The Bank of Ireland is an old building in the centre of the town. These people have no regard for man nor building," he said.
Tinahely residents expressed concerns yesterday they would suffer a major inconvenience if the bank did not re-open.
The nearest branches are in Tullow, Co Carlow; or in Carlow town, some miles away.
Officers believe members of the public may have seen the raiders in the area and are appealing for information.
Gardai can be contacted in Baltinglass on 059 6482610, on the Garda Confidential Line at 1800 666 111 or at any garda station.