11 December 2005

Bank suspect in republican jail wing bid

Sunday Life

by Alan Murray
11 December 2005

NORTHERN Bank raid suspect Chris Ward has asked to be moved to the republican wing at Maghaberry jail, Sunday Life can reveal.

Ward (24), requested "separated" status at the top-security prison on Friday so he can be housed with IRA, Real IRA and Continuity IRA inmates while on remand.

The Prison Service refused to comment last night on bank employee Ward's request for "separated" status.

But Sunday Life sources at the jail confirmed he has asked to be held alongside republicans pending his trial.

Said one senior source: "He [Ward] will probably be moved to Roe House on Monday, where republicans are held.

"He would have been moved there on Friday, but staff weren't available to complete the paperwork and make the necessary cell arrangements."

Ward was remanded in custody last week accused of robbing the Northern Bank's Belfast HQ of £26.5m last December.

He denies the charge and has protested his innocence.

In a statement read to the court, Ward claimed his home and a holiday apartment had been bugged by the police.

Ward had told cops that the raiders took over his parents' home and warned him that, if he didn't follow their orders to the letter, his family would be killed.

The next day, Ward and fellow bank employee Kevin McMullan were forced to empty the bank vault of more than £26m.

Mr McMullan's wife, Karen, was forced to crawl to safety after the IRA gang released her in a pitch-dark forest miles from her home after the raid.

Karen was severely traumatised by her ordeal and said her abductors had boasted that they would only get 15-year prison sentences if they killed her and Kevin.

Ward was remanded in custody until January 4, but is expected to make an application for bail in the High Court before then.

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