Page last updated at 16:36 GMT, Monday, 15 September 2008 17:36 UK

26m raid trial sees interviews

Northern Bank
Mr Ward denies taking part in the 26.5m bank robbery

The Northern Bank robbery trial has heard from the accused for the first time.

Taped police interviews with Chris Ward from before his arrest were played to the courtroom on Monday afternoon.

In a room at Garnerville police training college, Mr Ward described how a group of men arrived at his Poleglass home, and one pushed his way inside.

He appeared relaxed as he described being taken from his house, and leaving his family with two of the intruders.

Mr Ward said he was bundled into a car and told to lie down. He had a gun pointed at him and was told by the driver not to move.

Telling the officer that at this stage he closed his eyes and prayed for his safety and the safety of his family, Mr Ward said he was driven to his boss Kevin McMullan's house in Loughinisland.

At Mr McMullan's house Mr Ward said they were questioned by their captors about how best to remove money from the bank in which they worked.

Telling the officer he was "panicking and shaking", Mr Ward said both men agreed to do what the gang asked of them for the sake of their families.

Mr Ward said he and Mr McMullan were the told to get some sleep as they had "a big day ahead of them" and after a restless few hours, they were ordered to go to work on 20 December and act as if nothing had happened.

Hostage

Earlier the court heard statements from the mother and brother of Mr Ward.

They described the night three men arrived and held them hostage prior to the 26m heist.

Both statements described how Rose and Gerard Ward came downstairs to find three men surrounding Chris Ward.

They said they were told that as long as they co-operated, nobody would be hurt, but the men claimed they would not hesitate to shoot somebody.

Mr Ward, of Colinmill, Poleglass, denies taking part in the robbery at the Northern Bank's Belfast headquarters in December 2004.

All the men were described as wearing baseball caps with fleece jackets pulled up to cover their faces.

When one man took Chris Ward away, his mother asked if he would lose his job.

"No, what he is doing is under duress and he should not not lose his job," said one of the other men.

Chris Ward is said to have told his family to stay calm and that everything would be fine.

The following day, the men thoroughly cleaned the house. They told the family to tell the police that they had cleaned the house and would be taking the mop with them.

At 2230 GMT, Chris Ward returned with his boss from the bank.

The men left and gave directions as to when the police should be called.



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