12 September 2008

Great Northern Bank Robbery Case in Court

The father of a Northern Bank official accused of having participated in the spectacular £ 26.5 million (€ 32 million) robbery on December 20th, 2004 has dismissed the prosecution case as "ludicrous".

Christopher Ward's father was giving evidence on the second day of the trial. He said the men who held his family hostage for 24 hours at their home in west Belfast and took away his son were "criminals who would stop at nothing".

As to the claims that his son colluded with the robbers, he said Christopher would never have set his family up to be held captive, nor put his mother through such an ordeal. Mr. Ward senior also rejected a suggestion that his family had a "cosy relationship" with their captors.

26-year-old bank clerk Christopher Ward from Poleglass on the outskirts of west Belfast denies a charge of robbing the bank just before Christmas in 2004. The trial continues.

It is interesting to notice that the massive accusations, made by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and northern politicians shortly after the robbery, have disappeared into thin air.
In 2004 and early 2005 leading members of the Unionist parties, as well as senior PSNI officers, were convinced that the crime had been committed by the Provisional IRA and followed that lead in their enquiries. The matter led also to political frictions between Unionist and Nationalist parties in the North and threw the peace process into a crisis.

The Provisional IRA denied any involvement in the crime, and leading Sinn Féin politicians said it was a "stunt to derail the peace process". Despite massive searches only a small fraction of the money has been recovered and the professionally executed crime remains the largest robbery of all times in British history.

A rarely reported fact is that on February 18th, 2005 the PSNI recovered £ 50,000 in unused Northern banknotes (which were identified as part of the stolen money) at Newforge Country Club, a sports and social club in Belfast for off-duty and retired police officers, owned by the PSNI's Athletic Association. And ever since the robbery took place there have been speculations, especially in Nationalist circles, that the crime was committed by British special forces, trying to behave and look like members of the Provisional IRA, in order to stop or derail the ongoing peace process.

Numerous arrests were made on both sides of the border, but so far neither the real culprits nor the bulk of the stolen money have been found and Christopher Ward remains the only person brought to trial. Even though many things have changed in the North, some of the old problems seem still to exist.

The Emerald Islander

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Did background checks reveal a lengthy criminal history?

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