RAIDERS have ripped an ATM from a wall in a key tourist village on the north coast in the run up to the busy Easter period.
Thieves used a digger to take the machine from near the ‘Ground’ cafe at Market Square in the centre of Bushmills.
One person said they heard a noise which sounded like thunder as the digger tore through masonry.
The Causeway Coast & Glens PSNI twitter page said this morning: “Detectives appeal for info following theft of ATM in Market Sq, Bushmills, in early hours of this morning. Phone 101 quoting ref 106 16/04/18 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. It is envisaged Market Sq will remain closed for some time. Motorists should seek alternative routes.”
It was reported to the Fire Service that a vehicle was alight in the Diamond area of Bushmills.
A digger and a tractor and trailer were alight.
The report was received just before 3.30am where two appliances from Portrush and a fire officer were sent out.
The PSNI have closed the town centre to traffic firstly because of the fire and secondly to accommodate the investigation at daylight.
This is thought to be the ninth ATM theft in the recent spate across Northern Ireland.
McAuley Multimedia who were on the scene very quickly spoke to one eye witness who wished to remain anonymous who said: “At about twenty past three, I herd a massive crash followed by another crash, I thought it was thunder.
“It’s unreal that this has happened in our village. It now means that people will not be able to get cash especially coming up to the Easter holidays, when the village will be very busy with tourists given its location in proximity to Bushmills Distillery and the Giants Causeway.”
A short time later a vehicle was burned out at the Craigaboney Road near Bushmills. It is believed that both incidents are linked.
North Antrim MLA and TUV leader Jim Allister has expressed his anger at the latest theft after a similar raid in Ahoghill earlier this month.
He said: “The paucity of policing in North Antrim is, I believe, making life easy for the criminals.
“With barely a police officer or police vehicle available within north Antrim during the night, with such service as there is withdrawn to Coleraine, the area has been left wide open for these gangs, who are not ignorant of the opportunities lack of policing presents.
“After Ahoghill I expected targeting of ATMs, in terms of surveillance and increased patrols, by the PSNI, but once more the criminals are winning. This is not good enough.
“This is not just another ATM theft, but the ripping of a vital service out of the village of Bushmills.”
Commenting, local man and TUV candidate in the village, Cyril Quigg, said: “The derelict police station in our Main Street is an advert to the criminals of how easy crime has become.
“With a theft like this fine tuned to 3 or 4 minutes, waiting for police to come from Coleraine means the criminals are long gone.
“The local community is being let down badly by an over centralised policing policy. Meanwhile, the criminals are laughing all the way to their next heist.”
Local DUP representatives have condemned the latest theft of an ATM machine.
North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey is also a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board. He said “A few weeks ago I met with representatives from the PSNI taskforce focused on ATM thefts. We were encouraged with actions taken, but stressed that it would be important to see results.
“Whilst everyone understands the difficulties in tackling this spate of thefts there is an urgent need to ensure those responsible are brought to justice. The theft of ATM machines is not just hitting the heart of those communities directly affected but putting pressure on other shop owners who fear their premises may be next.
“There has been a prolonged and sustained campaign of attacks on machines right across Northern Ireland. The Easter weekend marks the beginning of the tourist season on the North Coast and it is shameful that residents and visitors to Bushmills have been robbed of this vital service.”
Local Councillor Sharon McKillop added: “This is a blow to the whole community in Bushmills. Having spoken to people today I know that the local community are angered and upset that this has happened in their village.
“Everyone on the North Coast is looking ahead to what should be a fantastic summer for tourism with the Open Championship and the 90th anniversary of the North West 200. ATMs are an absolutely vital service for both residents and visitors alike.
“It is not just the loss of the service, but damage has been done to a business premises and two large pieces of heavy machinery have been stolen and burned. The combined damage to the local economy is huge and it is vital that the public can see some results from the police investigation into these crimes.”