TWO men who were caught 30 minutes after a botched attempt to steal an ATM because they were still wearing their balaclavas have been jailed for six years.
The men managed to rip the ATM from the wall of AIB on Main Street, Castleisland, Co Kerry -- but the bucket of an excavator they used was too small to lift the ATM on to the back of a pick-up truck and they had to abandon the early-morning raid.
The ATM held €234,000 at the time.
The operation, which took place at 5am on November 13, 2010, was meticulously planned.
The pair stole an excavator, valued at €100,000, and conducted a trial run weeks in advance of the heist.
Mechanic Thomas Wilson (30), from Banbridge, Co Down, and construction worker Christopher Murney (25), from Mayobridge, Co Down, pleaded guilty to the theft of an ATM, criminal damage to the front wall of the bank, criminal damage of an excavator and arson of an excavator.
The men were forced to flee the scene but were spotted by gardai in a pick-up truck 30 minutes later, still wearing balaclavas. A high-speed garda chase ensued and the truck eventually crashed in a farm yard.
The culprits then tried to escape on foot, and were eventually apprehended by two gardai who used pepper spray and batons to subdue them.
At Limerick Circuit Court yesterday, Judge Carroll Moran commended the gardai for their bravery in effecting the arrest of the men.
The judge acknowledged that Wilson and Murney were not behind the sophisticated planning of the raid, and were "foot soldiers who were to get a small share of the proceeds".
He said the men had no previous convictions, and did not have a criminal profile.
They came from respectable families, and financial pressure had induced Wilson and Murney to carry out the crime, the judge said.
He described the organisers as sinister people who put the accused men under pressure to carry out the offence.
They had continued to come under pressure after their arrests, and Wilson's mother's car had been burnt out outside their home, the judge said.
He imposed a six-year sentence on both men, which he backdated to include the time that they had already served in prison while awaiting sentence.
The judge recommended that they served their sentences in a prison nearer to their homes in Co Down.