03 November 2005

Man charged over Northern Bank robbery


03/11/2005 - 18:08:23

A man was tonight charged with the £26.5m (€39.2m) Northern Bank robbery in Belfast.

The 23-year-old man was also accused of taking a husband and wife hostage and possession of a gun or imitation firearm during the heist last December.

He was one of men arrested by police in Northern Ireland as part of their probe into the biggest cash robbery in British history.

The man is due to appear at Belfast Magistrates Court tomorrow morning.

The man charged is building contractor Dominic McEvoy, of Kilcoo, Co Down.

Police held him at his Mullandra Park home on Tuesday as part of a planned operation that has led to five arrests so far.

He is accused of the false imprisonment of Kevin McMullan, a supervisor at the Northern, and his wife Karen.

Gang members took over their hom at Loughinisland, Co Down during the robbery just before Christmas.

While Mr McMullan and a colleague, Chris Ward, were ordered to go into work, both their families were held hostage.

Mrs McMullan was taken from her house and later released near Drumkeeragh Forest Park, between Castlewellan and Ballynahinch, Co Down.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokeswoman said tonight: “A 23-year-old man has been charged with the false imprisonment of Karen McMullan and the false imprisonment of Kevin McMullan.

“He has also been charged with possession of a firearm or imitation firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence, and the robbery of £26.5m from the Northern Bank in Belfast on December 20, 2004.”

Earlier today a top republican was held during another series of raids on homes in Co Tyrone.

Brian Arthurs, 40, was arrested in Dungannon while a 43-year-old suspect was detained in Coalisland.

Arthurs, whose brother Declan was among an eight-man IRA unit wiped out in an SAS ambush 18 years ago, is understood to be a member of Sinn Fein.

Officers seized a car and dozens of bags containing cash, cheque books, clothes and computer equipment from his house.

Police on both sides of the Irish border have blamed the IRA for clearing the vaults at the Northern’s Belfast city centre HQ last December.

After a 10-month probe into the robbery, all five arrests came in a 36-hour operation.

Along with McEvoy, another suspect, aged 24 was brought in from Kilcoo on Tuesday night while a 30-year-old man was held in Belfast yesterday.

Republicans and Arthurs’ wife Paula were incensed that the father-of-three was suspected of involvement.

“This is all a political exercise, this is to humiliate republicans again,” Mrs Arthurs said.

But Northern Ireland Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde insisted the arrests were a deeply significant part of the investigation and expressed his hope that more would follow.

“This is not over yet,” he said. “Just because people have been arrested today does not mean the investigation is closing down.

“We will continue to deliver as best we can in what is a very complicated major crime investigation

“The action we have taken is proportionate and has been the right thing to do.

“I have absolute confidence my detectives are looking in the right direction.”

Police believe up to 30 men planned the robbery just before Christmas, which involved taking two bank employees’ families hostage.

Cash seized in Co Cork last February was linked to the raid, but virtually all of the missing millions is unrecovered.

A month later the Northern was forced to replace all its £10, £20, £50 and £100 notes with new notes carrying a different logo.

Although the Provisionals have always denied carrying out the raid, detectives believe senior IRA men in Belfast were involved.

Only a lack of evidence has thwarted their attempts to charge them.

But Mrs Arthurs hit out at the police decision to arrest her husband, telling BBC Radio Ulster: “The Northern Bank robbery is the biggest joke.

“Maybe if they looked a bit closer to themselves they might find out who did it.”

Arthurs’ brother was gunned down by soldiers along with other IRA men as they prepared to bomb Loughgall police station in 1987.

The Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Michelle Gidernew, claimed support for the reformed police service would evaporate because of the arrests.

“These are not the actions of an accountable and acceptable policing service,” she said.

“The operation in Tyrone will further undermine the confidence of the nationalist community in the ability of the PSNI to deliver impartial, accountable policing.”

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