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News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)
December 25, 2004
12/25/04 – Poleglass Man’s Bank Heist Ordeal
Monthly Table of Contents 12/04
IC 12/24/04 Bank Heist: Poleglass Man's Ordeal
BB 12/24/04 Search Police Attacked By Mob
DJ 12/24/04 Derry Man 'Innocent Victim Of Loyalist Feud'
BT 12/24/04 Border Fox Let Out Of Prison For Christmas
BT 12/24/04 Blair Confirms No DUP Role In On-The-Run Talks
CN 12/24/07 Dublin Archbishop In Christmas Peace Plea
Bank Heist: Poleglass Man's Ordeal
Cops clueless as more details emerge of what kidnap victims had to go
Cops carry out forensic examination on Poleglass home after £22million
A family home in West Belfast was yesterday forensically examined as part
of the investigation into the robbery of £22 million from the Northern
The Ward family from Colinmill in Poleglass were held hostage at gunpoint
for 25 hours by those behind the heist. Son Christopher (22), who works
for the Northern Bank Cash Centre at Donegall Square West, was kidnapped
from his home as part of the elaborate robbery plan.
Neighbours in Colinmill say that they are shocked that the close-knit
family were held hostage in the area. They have described both
Christopher and the other members of the Ward family as quiet people who
keep themselves to themselves. It is believed that the family will now
require counselling for the ordeal they endured.
Christopher is a leading member of one of the north's top Celtic
Supporters' Clubs, Eire Go Bragh.
The PSNI have said at this stage that they are not in a position to say
who carried out the robbery, but have said that the number of robbers in
the gang ran into double figures. They are examining a number of lines of
enquiry and said that one of the lines of enquiry they are spending much
time looking at is paramilitary involvement in the incident.
The stolen money is made up of £12 million in new Northern Bank £10 and
£20 notes, £1.15 million in new Northern Bank £100 and £50 notes, and in
excess of £5 million in used notes.
Events began to unfold at 10pm on Sunday night when a number of masked
men went to the Ward family home. At home at the time with Christopher
were his parents, Rose and Gerry, Christopher's brother, Gerard, and
The masked men entered the house and at least two masked men stayed with
the family for over 24 hours, holding them at gunpoint. Christopher was
taken in a red car from Colinmill in Poleglass to Loughinsland Road near
Downpatrick, where his supervisor, Kevin McMullan, lives. When
Christopher arrived in Downpatrick masked men had already taken over the
house. Men dressed as PSNI officers had earlier called at the Co Down
house and told Mr McMullan that a member of his family had been killed in
a road accident. A gun was then put to the bank official's head and he
was tied up. The man's wife was taken in a car to an unknown location
where she was held for 24 hours.
At around 6.30am the masked men left the house in Downpatrick and gave
instructions to the bank officials as to what they were to do. The bank
workers went into work at midday and carried on as normal during the
afternoon. Both men were working in the cash centre in the basement of
the bank in Wellington Street. At 6pm one of the workers left the bank on
foot carrying a holdall and walked to Upper Queen Street where he met a
The holdall, containing in excess of £1 million in new notes, was handed
over to a man wearing a hat and a scarf.
Over the next few hours more money from the cash centre was loaded on to
crates. Twice, shortly after 7pm and shortly after 8pm, a white van
registration number RCZ 6632, called at the Wellington Street entrance to
the bank and took away substantial amounts of cash. The van headed
towards Grosvenor Road and the Westlink, say cops. The PSNI will now
examine hundreds of hours of CCTV footage from the bank and city centre
cameras in an attempt to identify those who took part in the raid.
Detective Superintendent Andy Sproule, who is in charge of the
investigation, said that at the time of going to press no arrests had
been planned. He said that although forensic examinations were ongoing,
he believed that the robbers had been "forensically aware".
"There is clear evidence that the individuals who took over the houses
were forensically aware and that they took precautions so that they could
not be forensically traced."
Christopher Ward and Kevin McMullan are currently being interviewed by
the PSNI in a bid to get further information on the heist gang.
"The bank employees are being interviewed as witnesses and the line of
enquiry in relation to insider involvement is ongoing but it happens in
all these type of enquiries and this is standard procedure," added the
The National Australia Bank, which owns the Northern Bank, said the
robbery would have no knock-on effect on the sale of the Northern to the
Danish Danske Bank Group announced earlier this month.
"The theft is covered by self-insurance and, as such, National Australia
Bank will bear the impact of any losses arising from the theft."
Journalist:: Roisin McManus
See video at:
Search Police Attacked By Mob -V
Five officers were injured as police searching homes in connection with a
£22m bank raid in Belfast came under attack.
The officers' vehicles were battered with stones, bricks and hammers as
they searched a house in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast.
Police were raiding a number of homes in west and north Belfast,
including that of a prominent republican.
The officers have taken away a number of items for forensic examination.
Monday's raid is thought to have been one of the biggest UK cash
The Northern bank is considering recalling all its bank notes to prevent
the stolen cash being filtered into the economy.
The IRA has denied involvement in the robbery. On Thursday, a senior
republican dismissed "any suggestion or allegation that we were
THE £22M RAID
£12m in new Northern Bank £100 and £20 notes were taken
£5m of assorted used NI banknotes were taken
£1.15m of new Northern Bank £100 and £50 notes were among the stolen cash
Four people were held hostage at a house in Poleglass on the outskirts of
Two people were held in County Down
A woman was held blindfolded for more than 24 hours
45 detectives are working on the case
Police have said the possible involvement of paramilitaries is a "key
line of inquiry".
They have identified two criminal gangs and three paramilitary factions
that they believe are capable of carrying out the robbery.
Prominent republican Eddie Copeland's home in the Ardoyne area of north
Belfast was one of the premises searched on Friday.
Police told Mr Copeland they were looking for clothing and notes in
connection with the robbery.
Christmas presents were opened and search teams took clothes, shoes,
mobile phones and other items away for forensic examination.
Mr Copeland said he had "no idea" why police had searched his house.
In the Lenadoon area of west Belfast, the crowd had to be calmed down as
the police moved in to search a house.
Sinn Fein assembly member Michael Ferguson said the searches were "black
"This is an attack on republicans and an attack on the peace process," he
Meanwhile, detectives have issued the serial numbers of 150,000 Northern
Bank £10 notes.
The serial numbers of the stolen notes run from BC8500001 to BC8550000,
BC9100001 to BC9150000 and BC9350001 to BC9400000.
Police have urged other banking institutions, retailers and members of
the public to look out for the suspected stolen new Northern Bank £10
The Northern Bank said it wanted to reassure customers that if anyone
brought a suspicious note to their branches, it would be honoured.
Northern Irish banks issue their own notes with distinctive designs
easily distinguishable from ones in circulation in the rest of the United
At least 10 men are now known to have been involved in the robbery.
The two bank officials whose families were held hostage are being
interviewed in depth by detectives who say the process could take several
Police say they want to establish how the gang knew which staff to
A female hostage held during the raid raised the alarm after scrambling
through a forest.
It emerged on Thursday that police missed the robbers by a matter of
Officers went to the area after reports of suspicious activity near the
Northern Bank's headquarters on the night of the raid.
It is understood a traffic warden called police to report two men acting
suspiciously after a white van was spotted parked in a nearby side
A foot patrol had been sent to check out the reported suspicious activity
and it would now appear those officers missed the gang by just a few
Detectives have released CCTV footage of the van.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/12/24 20:33:31 GMT
(c) BBC MMIV
Derry Man 'Innocent Victim Of Loyalist Feud'
Friday 24th December 2004
A Derry man was the innocent victim of a loyalist feud, the High Court in
Belfast heard this week.
Twenty-two-year-old Darren Thompson was murdered last September as he
walked to work along Woodburn Park in the Waterside.
A Crown lawyer said a lone gunman lay in wait and fired a single shot
which went through Mr. Thompson's left eye and he died in Altnagelvin
Graham Richard Harkness, aged 28, from Barnault Road, Claudy, who denies
murdering Mr. Thompson, applied for bail.
Opposing bail, the lawyer said police believed the motive for the murder
was tension within loyalist factions in the Waterside area "with Mr.
Thompson becoming an innocent victim."
The lawyer said immediately after the shooting a boiler suit, scarf and
hat were found burning in a nearby alleyway.
A preliminary forensic examination had established a definite match
between 27 fibres from Harkness's car and clothing and a sample of fibres
from the remnants of the burnt clothes.
Bail was refused by Lord Justice Sheil who said a forensic report should
be supplied to the defence as soon as possible.
Border Fox Let Out Of Prison For Christmas
But Garda McCabe killers to stay inside
By Tom Brady
24 December 2004
Border Fox Dessie O'Hare is among those being granted Christmas parole by
the prison authorities in the Republic.
However, the four IRA men convicted of killing Detective Garda Jerry
McCabe will spend the festive season in their bungalow complex within the
grounds of Castlerea jail.
Other notorious prisoners, including killer Malcolm Macarthur, are also
excluded from the group of 294 prisoners being let out on temporary
release for periods ranging from a few hours to 10 days.
Announcing the parole figures yesterday, Justice Minister Michael
McDowell said the group accounted for under 9% of the prisoner population
and was a small reduction on the 307 released last year.
He said many of the prisoners being let out were nearing the end of their
sentences, while others were serving relatively short sentences.
All releases are subject to stringent conditions and anybody who breaks
the conditions may be arrested and returned immediately to jail by the
The inclusion of the former INLA leader Dessie O'Hare for six days'
release is not a surprise, as he is expected to be permanently release
from jail next year.
He was also out on temporary release from Castlerea prison last month and
had been granted another spell out in July.
O'Hare was sentenced to 40 years' imprisonment for leading the INLA gang
which kidnapped Dublin dentist John O'Grady in 1987 and he was a prime
suspect for an estimated 27 murders.
The killers of Garda Jerry McCabe - Kevin Walsh Pearse McAuley, Jeremiah
Sheehy, and Michael O'Neill - have been let out of jail in the past for
limited periods of temporary release but have consistently been denied
Also remaining locked up is Malcolm Macarthur, who is serving a life
sentence for the murder of nurse Bridie Gargan in the Phoenix Park in
Dublin in 1982.
A review of his case earlier this year recommended that he should not be
allowed temporary release.
And former soldier Michael McAleavey, who was convicted of shooting dead
three army colleagues in south Lebanon in 1982, will also stay behind
Blair Confirms No DUP Role In On-The-Run Talks
By Noel McAdam, Political Correspondent
24 December 2004
Tony Blair has confirmed that the DUP took no part in negotiations over
on the run prisoners and demilitarisation, it emerged today.
A private letter from the Prime Minister also said the issue over the
potential release of the killers of Garda Jerry McCabe began before the
DUP entered the talks.
The DUP released the letter, dated December 7, in the face of mounting
Ulster Unionist criticism.
With devolution discussions in abeyance for the Christmas and New Year
break, Ian Paisley today lashed the UUP.
"The Ulster Unionist Party resorts to the depths of lies and deceit when
it has nothing left to offer the unionist people," he said.
But a UUP spokesman said Blair's letter appeared to be ambiguous.
"The fact is that these matters form part of the overall package now and
the DUP's fingerprints are all over it," the spokesman said.
In the letter, Mr Blair wrote: "I assured you that these conditional
elements, in particular legislation to address on the runs and the
normalisation programme set out in the annex to the Joint Declaration,
were concluded in 2003 and did not form part of any negotiations in which
the DUP participated.
"You have also raised commitments made by the Irish Government ... such
as the possible release of those involved in the murder of Garda McCabe
and the issue of participation in committees of the Dail by MPs from
"While these are obviously matters for the Irish Government, I understand
that they also originated before any negotiations with the DUP began."
Mr Paisley said: "This sets the record straight. Official Unionist
spokesmen would be wise to examine what they agreed to during their
tenure as negotiators before making public comment."
But the UUP insisted the DUP were not exonerated.
Dublin Archbishop In Christmas Peace Plea
Dublin, Dec. 24 (CWNews.com) - Dublin's Archbishop Diarmuid Martin called
for a lasting peace in Ireland in his Christmas message.
In his homily at midnight Mass, the archbishop said: "At Christmas,
thoughts of kindness can break through into even the hardest of hearts.
The most disillusioned can find in the Message of Christmas something
which uplifts them and makes them yearn for nobler ideals."
"Christmas is the night of peace," Archbishop Martin said, continuing:
The appearance of God in the humble birth of Jesus brings peace into
lives and hearts. We include in our prayers this evening all those who do
not enjoy the gift of peace. We pray for those who are troubled and
anxious in their hearts. We pray for the victims of violence in all its
forms, in war zones or within the walls of their own homes. We remember
children who have suffered violence and abuse, who were robbed of their
innocence. We remember too the innocent children who in this night
anywhere suffer hunger and the horrors of conflict.
We remember all those who work for peace. Once again we end a year still
hoping for a complete and lasting peace in our own country. We thank God
for the efforts of all those who have worked so hard in these past
months, in public or behind the scenes, for peace and a stable political
framework for the future. We pray that those still attracted to the path
of violence may be touched by the message of Christmas, the message of
the God of strength who entered human history in gentleness and
tenderness. Rarely in our recent political history has there been such a
united longing for peace, shared by young and old, across all the
political and religious traditions on our Ireland. Peace is possible. We
pray that the Christmas message may penetrate into hearts and bring
fruits of peace soon.
Monthly Table of Contents 12/04