Real Heist Stories: The Northern Bank Robbery

Lucky Crime or Very Well Organized?

When someone thinks about robbing a bank or aim for lots of money illegally, you would usually think that arms, weapons, and some threats would be enough when arriving at the place. However, what if someone decides to kidnap your family and take them as hostages? That’s another level. 

All criminals have their own modus operandi, and some are smarter than others when approaching all the options in their hands. 

In the Northern Bank Robbery case, they decided to take the family approach and make it simple yet complex in terms of how the burglary occurred. 

If you aren’t familiar with this story and decided to come here for some answers, you better take your seat because the Northern Bank Robbery involves many factors, details, and some background we are sure you will be eager to know. 

And don’t worry; we will answer questions like if they were ever arrested, what happened to the money, and much more. 

How It All Started: Robbery Details

If we want to cover the story right, we will need to start with the place where it all took place. 

Northern Bank, which is now known as Danske Bank, was the largest retail bank in Northern Ireland with over 85 branches. 

National Australia Bank owned it during this time, and the headquarters were located in Donegall Square West, Belfast. 

Moving on with the day of the robbery, two Northern Bank employees were attacked by armed men on Sunday, 19, December 2004. 

One was Chris Ward in Downpatrick in County Down, and the other, Kevin McMullan, was in Poleglass, West Belfast. 

The armed men in Chris Ward property took and drove him to Poleglass, where Kevin McMullan, who was his supervisor at the bank, had been tied up by another part of the men involved who were masquerading as officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), had him tied up. 

Ward’s family was threatened by the armed men, who remained at Ward’s house. 

McMullan’s wife, instead, was taken from her house and placed in an unknown location. The masked men instructed the officials to report for work as usual at the bank’s headquarters on the next Monday morning.

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McMullan, Ward, and other criminals maintained contact via mobile phones. On Monday 20, December 2004, Ward was told to take a bag with PS1 million to the Queen Street bus stop. 

He then gave the bag to one of the robbers who was threatening him. However, this was just part of the main show that was going to take place in the afternoon of the same day.

Ward and McMullan then proceeded to work and stayed in the facilities even after the business was closed, where they loaded the banknotes onto trolleys and took them to the two vans that were sent to steal the loot. 

Mrs. McMullan was taken to Drumkeeragh Forest, Ballynahinch, and left there around 11 o’clock. 

She managed to find her way to a house, where she raised the alarm and was treated for hypothermia.

The criminals took a total of PS26.5 million: PS10 million in uncirculated Northern Bank Sterling banknotes; PS5.5million in used Northern Bank sterling notes; PS4.5million in used notes supplied to other banks; and smaller amounts in cash in other currencies, including US dollars. 

Police quickly established a 50-member investigation and knew they were handling very well-organized individuals who prepared everything carefully enough to leave no tracks.

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Behind the Masks: Who Were the Perpetrators?

With all the hustle of the moment, the police had a very difficult job finding who was responsible for the crime. 

If you dive a bit deeper into the story and who was involved, you will find many articles arguing that the black masks they wore were a good fit to hide their tracks. 

Of course, the authorities still had to work around this, and the only way to achieve the desired results what to work harder than ever before. 

With this in mind, we are taken to the moment in which the police made a statement. 

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) claimed that the Provisional Irish Republican Army was responsible for the crime. They were searching into it to determine the specific individuals. 

All parties involved in the agreement were: the Independent Monitoring Commission, the British government, and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland.

However, here’s a “plot twist,” the Sinn Fein and the IRA denied involvement in the event. 

In 2005, both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland police made arrests and conducted house searches to find any evidence, especially from those working in the bank. 

During these searches, the sum of PS2.3million was impounded at Ted Cunningham’s house; a financial adviser was arrested.

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Phil Flynn, who was also a director of Ted Cunningham’s company Bank of Scotland (Ireland), was forced to resign his position since he was closely involved with Ted’s company. 

Although Ted Cunningham was part of the UK-Irish robbery, not all of the criminals involved were found. 

In fact, ten people have been arrested, but only three have been connected and charged for the burglary, which is a very low number. 

What We Know Today

You probably wonder what happened with this case, considering that the crime has directly condemned 

no one besides Ted.

This mystery is not only one of the biggest ones in UK-Irish history but also worldwide due to the amount of money stolen. 

Focusing on using numbers and currencies you are more familiar with, the total amount of the robbery involved £26.5 million, which is about $36.7 million as of today, 2021. 

Besides the £2 million (PS) found on Ted’s house, the rest of the money is yet to be found, which makes sense considering that none of the people directly involved in the crime has been caught. 

Ted actually pleads innocence regarding the robbery, and he is focused on proving that his time in jail makes no sense. 

As for the employees who were threatened to take part in the crime, officials suspected them since the beginning, which is why the Northern Bank robbery is usually associated with an inside job to the point of arresting Chris Was in November 2005. 

However, he was found innocent considering all the situation with his family, how he has remained clean after all these years, and there isn’t any proof that leads to his involvement.

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The closest suspect the authorities have had over the years is the former IRA genius, Bobby Storey since he was involved in similar robberies and major incidents. 

Unfortunately, no evidence has been found to support the accusations. To this date, the Northern Bank robbery remains an unsolved case and one of the most successful robberies in history. 

Facts & Details About the Northern Bank Robbery

  • The British, Irish, and US governments were hit simultaneously due to the aftermath of the robbery. 
  • The previous three governments were trying to rebuild the fragile political deal, and the incident highly influenced their efforts. 
  • Northern Bank robbery case remains an open one that is being investigated by all three nations. 
  • At the time it occurred, it was the biggest and most infamous raid in the UK.

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Written by Dame Cash

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