Kells ATM heist comes exactly 40 years after raiders shut down John St in armed raid

Story by Gavan Becton

Friday, 19th April, 2019 5:16pm

Kells ATM heist comes exactly 40 years after raiders shut down John St in armed raid

Scene in Kells after ATM heist and the Chronicle front page from 1979

This morning's brazen bank raid that saw TWO cash machines ripped from their banks' walls comes nearly 40 years to the day after raiders 'shut down' John St for over 10 minutes while they held up the Bank of Ireland branch, holding staff and attending gardai at gunpoint!

Here is the report that appeared in the Meath Chronicle on 7th April, 1979

KELLS BANK RAID

A SCENE that could have come straight out of a Wild West bank raid film was witnessed by dozens of people in Kells at 4.50pm on Monday when a green Granada car pulled up outside the Bank of Ireland in Headfort Place and six armed and masked men leapt out.

While four of them rushed into the bank, which was still open for business, the other two proceeded to stop all cars going to and from John St. Drivers were ordered at gunpoint to throw their switchkeys out on the road. One of the raiders, a gun on his shoulder, marched up and down on "guard duty."


The Meath Chronicle front page from April, 1979.

Mrs Marie Collins, wife of the assistant bank manager, Mr. Patrick Collins, had a most unnerving experience. She had driven into Headfort Place, with her four young children also in the car. A raider put a gun into the car and ordered her, with threats, to turn her car across the road so that traffic would be obstructed. She did so and her keys were thrown on the road. Somebody phoned the local Gardai when the raiders arrived and Sergeant Tony McDonagh, accompanied by Gardai Martin and O'Rourke, raced to the scene in the Sergeant's car. But they too were held up at gun-point, ordered to get out of the car, which they did, and to lie on the road. This they, courageously, refused to do. Again the keys were thrown on the road.

 

The John Street-Headfort Place area was held to ransom, so to speak, for the ten minutes.

In the meantime, the four raiders in the bank shouted "hands up" and demanded to see the Manager, Mr Frank Motherway. Mr Motherway was in his office with a customer when the door opened and, (a man) displaying a gun that "seemed to be ten yards long!" asked was he the manager. Mr. Motherway said he was as he was stared at by the raider. The man warned him not to stare at him any longer, to avoid identification, presumably.

Mr. Motherway told a "Meath Chronicle" reporter that this man appeared to be the leader, and said he was less concerned about him than he was about a small man with a sawn-off shotgun who appeared to be a little bit nervous.

The leader ordered the manager to get the keys of the strong room. Another raider and himself ordered the manager and another official; Mr. Michael Leonard, to move to the strong room and open the door. This was done but here the raiders were foiled, because the security cabinets in the strong room could not be opened.

Earlier thirteen officials were herded to the end of the premises. Ms. Veronica Flanagan, chief cashier, could be excused if she fainted; which she didn't, when one of the raiders, carrying a swan-off shotgun, vaulted across her desk and stood menacingly beside her.

The leader, described as "highly professional," told Mr. Motherway in no uncertain terms what would happen if Gardai arrived before they were ready to leave.

All the cash boxes on the premises were rifled and the notes stuffed into a large bag. It is estimated that over £18,000 was stolen. Warnings were given to the staff against pressing alarm buzzers or giving any other warning.

The men rushed out to the car, the six got into it and drove at high speed out of the town. Despite the road obstruction, Sergeant McDonagh was only two minutes behind the raiders who had a van parked on the Balreask road some two miles from the town. They abandoned the Granada there and escaped in the van. It is understood the car was stolen in Drogheda on Sunday night. It is believed that there had been a heavy withdrawal of cash earlier on the Monday.

Intense Garda activity over a very wide area, under the direction of Supt. G. J. Dennison, Kells, followed the raid. Up to Tuesday no arrests had been made.

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