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Thursday, 6 January, 2000, 19:43 GMT
Robberies force post office closures

The post office has been targeted before

Four post offices in Northern Ireland have been forced to remain closed following robberies since Christmas.

Whitewell Post Office near Glengormley outside Belfast, Legahorry post office in Craigavon, County Armagh, Killinchy post office in County Down and a post office on the Lower Falls Road in Belfast were raided over the festive season.

The premises at Legahorry is due to open again on Monday but there is no indication when the others will re-open for business.

The latest robbery took place at the post office at Whitewell.

An armed gang was lying in wait in the back yard on Wednesday morning and held a member of staff at gunpoint.

Sub Postmaster Andrew McKinless said he had taken a few steps outside the back door when the sensor lights came on.

Describing his ordeal, he said: "A boy said to me: "Turn around, do as you're told, you'll not get hurt." I did as they asked and they followed me in through the back door.

"One one was 5'7'' or 5'8'' the other was six feet tall.

"The wee fellow stayed in the back and the big fellow said to me again: "Just do as you're told, ,we'll not hurt you, we just want the money."

The Whitewell post office has been targeted before and local people are worried it could close for good.

One man said the closure was an inconvenience to everybody but said the robbers did not think of that.

Another man said people did not want the post office to be moved from the area.

Sub Postmaster Andrew McKinless: Described ordeal
Raymond Creagh head of Post Office Counters in Northern Ireland said it was necessary for the four post offices to remain closed.

He said two of the post offices had been severely damaged during the raids, as walls had been knocked down with a digger needed repaired.

He said in two of the other cases, including Whitewell, the sub postmaster had been left in a state of shock.

"We would hope next week that we will get all of them reopened at some stage," he said.

This is depriving the community of a much valued service, so closure is not a decision that we take lightly
Raymond Creagh Head of Post Office Counters
"This is depriving the community of a much valued service, so closure is not a decision that we take lightly.

"A permanent closure decision would only be taken in extreme circumstances, in many cases where an office has been hit several times.

"It's the affect on individuals and not surprisingly, after three or four raids, some people say enough is enough."

He said the best possibly security was provided in post offices and was reviewed after such incidents.

"In the case of the postmaster at Whitewell, he was held at gunpoint outside his post office now that's very, very difficult to combat," he said.

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