Armed gang use gas to blow up bank ATM

Shot fired at gardaí in the first robbery of its kind seen in the Republic

An armed gang used a gas explosion to gain access to the contents of an Ulster Bank ATM in Co Wexford. Photograph:Frank Miller/The Irish Times.

An armed gang used a gas explosion to gain access to the contents of an Ulster Bank ATM in Co Wexford. Photograph:Frank Miller/The Irish Times.

Sat, Feb 8, 2014, 00:55

An armed gang that shot at gardaí during a bank raid flooded an ATM with gas, before lighting it and blowing the machine off its anchors and exposing its cash unit.

In the first robbery of its kind seen in the Republic, the raiders then took cash from the back of the ATM after smashing their way through the door of the Ulster Bank in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.

Gardaí in Enniscorthy station down the street heard the explosion at 3.30am yesterday and went in a patrol car to investigate.

When they arrived at the bank on Rafter Street, members of the gang were still at the scene, gathering up money from the ATM inside the porch of the branch. One of the raiders fired at the Garda car with a shotgun before his two accomplices ran from inside the bank with more cash.

The raiders then fled the scene in what was described as a black high-powered estate car.

The unarmed gardaí were in their patrol car when fired at and were uninjured, though sources said the gunman took aim at them. Gardaí believe less than €20,000 was stolen, saying a large sum was left at the scene and that the ATM had been used heavily since being loaded early in the week.


Blown open
While robbery gangs have in recent years used diggers to rip ATMs from bank and shop exterior walls and to carry them away to be emptied, yesterday’s robbery was the first time an explosion was used to dislodge and blow open a machine.

A Garda source said the gang carried the gas to the scene in a canister, turned it on with a valve and flooded the ATM using a hose after drilling a hole in the front of the machine.

“Then when it was full of gas they exploded it and the back of the ATM was blown off on to the floor of the bank. Then they broke through the reinforced glass door from the street and got inside and started helping themselves to the money.”

Another source said inside the bank was dark and that using torches with debris everywhere, the raiders did not have much time to take large sums of money before gardaí arrived.


Oxygen and propane
The Irish Times understands the men took the gas canister away with them. It was unclear what gas was used but a combination of oxygen and propane has been used in many similar raids in other countries.

The ATM remained in the wall after the raid and some local people reported seeing money on the ground in the bank and on the street in the aftermath of the crime. The area was sealed off after the gang fled and a significant rapid reaction operation was put in place across the southeast and on major roads out of region, including in the direction of Dublin.

However, the three raiders were still at large last night, although a number of suspects have emerged.

While the practice of blowing ATMs from walls has been seen in the US and Europe in recent years, it has rapidly grown in frequency in the UK in the past 12 to 18 months. Gardaí fear a series of similar robberies here following yesterday’s raid.

They believe gangs who had previously been targeting ATMs and cash-in-transit vans only to be frustrated by increased security measures will likely seek to exploit the apparent weakness with ATMs being blown open.