Page last updated at 14:54 GMT, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 15:54 UK

Manager relives 26.5m raid day

Chris Ward
Mr Ward denies the charges against him

A bank manager has told the Northern Bank robbery trial he "spun a yarn" to staff to send them home early so he and a colleague could empty the vault.

Kevin McMullan was giving evidence at the trial of Chris Ward, who denies being the "inside man" in the 26.5m robbery in Belfast in 2004.

Mr McMullan, whose wife was being held by a gang, said he told staff there was a problem and they could go home.

He and Mr Ward stuffed a bag full of bundles of 100 and 50 notes, he said.

Mr Ward carried this outside the bank in Belfast's Donegall Square West, as instructed by the gang who were holding their families hostage.

Mr McMullan talked about his panic when he could not check in on time with the gang on a mobile phone which they had given him.

He had to go outside to get a signal and was worried about what might happen to his wife, Karyn.

When he got through to one of the gang members, he said: "I apologised for being late. I told them I could not get reception within the cash centre."

He was told: "OK, you're doing fine, everything is all right. Make sure your friend phones next time."

Northern bank
Mr McMullan and Mr Ward stuffed money into a sports bag

Earlier, he had described the night before the robbery, Sunday, 19 December, when two men posing as policemen had come to his house pretending that a member of his family had been killed in a car accident.

He described how he and his wife had been threatened with guns and he had been told that, if anything went wrong, his wife would be shot in the head.

Mr McMullan also said that he and Mr Ward had been held overnight in a back bedroom at his Loughinisland home before the robbery and told to get some sleep.

He said at 0630 GMT, the gang left and told them to get ready for work starting at 1200 GMT.

Mr McMullan said he left early because he feared his father would drop in for a chat as he often did when his son was on a late shift.

On his way up the road, he passed his father and just drove on.

At work, he said: "I tried to go around the department and get stuck into my normal duties, answer emails, make it look like as normal a day as possible," he said.

Chris Ward further denies two charges of abducting Mr McMullan and his wife Karyn.

The trial continues.

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