13/03/2009

'Bank Robbery' Policeman's Gun Death Probed

The tragic case of the apparent suicide of a former police officer which the PSNI are linking to a bank hold-up less than an hour earlier has taken a fresh twist.

A similar incident to the armed robbery that preceeded the gun-shot death of ex-policeman Ricky Hanley, 37, on Wednesday was carried out at the same Northern Bank in Ballymena last summer.

During that incident in August 2008, a man dressed like a police officer, armed with a handgun and wearing a high visibility jacket, entered the bank at 1pm.

He left with an undisclosed sum of cash.

Police said they were investigating if there is a link between that robbery and the latest one at the same branch of the Northern Bank in Harryville at 10am on Wednesday.

Mr Hanley shot himself dead at his Loughan Hill Park home after being challenged about the earlier armed bank robbery.

The former officer, a father-of-two who had retired on medical grounds in 2006, was reported to have been followed from the scene.
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The PSNI spokesman has since said that a "sum of money has been recovered and police do not believe anyone was connected with the crime".

Police have also said a gun was recovered at the scene.

Al Hutchinson's NI Police Ombudsman's Office has been called in to probe the circumstances of the death - as is usual where police officers are involved in a violent death.

It has also emerged that a man arrested separately after the armed robbery has been released unconditionally and without charge.

Police have confirmed and later apologised, after the man's car was surrounded at the scene of the armed robbery.

In a statement last night a PSNI spokesman said: "It is now clear that the man arrested in the aftermath of the bank robbery had nothing to do with the incident whatsoever.

"He has been released unconditionally and without charge. Police have apologised to the man for his inconvenience."

See: Ex-Policeman Dies In Co Antrim Gun Incident

See: Ballymena Bank Hit In 'Cops And Robbers' Sting

(BMcC)

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