Thieves who tried to rip an ATM from the wall of a filling station shop in Ballynahinch, Co Down, have had to flee without the machine – but ended up bringing the forecourt roof down in the process.

The owner of Carlisle’s on the Belfast Road went to the scene when the alarm was raised in the early hours of Monday and spotted the suspects.

He tried to hem them in with his vehicle, but they were able to take off – bringing the canopy down in the process.

The shop was also badly damaged by the efforts to use a bulldozer to rip the ATM from the wall.

Tills were ripped out and cigarettes stolen, although the thieves did also manage to bring the cabinet down on themselves in yet another botched move.

Donna Carlisle, who told UTV about her husband’s efforts to stop the suspects, said the family and staff have been left devastated by the extent of the damage.

“A lot of people are sitting at home now, no work, and we don’t know how long it’ll take to get it all sorted,” she said.

“Just devastated.”

This was a brazen and despicable attack by those involved who have caused serious disruption to the business affected and to its customers. This attack has also caused widespread disruption to people using the Belfast Road, which remains closed as we continue with our enquiries.

PSNI Detective Inspector Richard Thornton

The Belfast Road has had to be closed throughout Monday morning and drivers are being advised to seek an alternative route if possible.

Bus services – including for schools - have also been affected, with Translink saying no stops can be served between Ballynahinch Library and Temple.

Detectives investigating the attempted raid say a silver-coloured Volkswagen Passat with a trailer was reported to have been spotted at the scene.

A car matching that description was later found on fire in the Queens Park area of Saintfield.

Police are still dealing with the incident in Ballynahinch. Credit: UTV

Retail NI has condemned the incident, which comes after the theft of an ATM at Knockbracken Health Centre and an the attempted theft of an ATM at Belfast City Hospital over the weekend.

“Words fail to describe my anger at this disgraceful attempted ATM robbery on one of our members,” Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said.

“This has caused extensive damage to one of Ballynahinch’s largest retailers in the run up to Christmas - this is an independent retailer, who provides an invaluable service to the local community, awakened from his sleep to be told his business is smashed up.”

Mr Roberts added: “It is also a new low for these robbers to attack health centres to steal ATMs.

“We would urge all businesses and organisations who have external ATMs to be vigilant and urge members of the public with any information to contact the PSNI.”

The forecourt roof ended up collapsing as a result of damage during attempts to steal an ATM. Credit: Pacemaker

PSNI Detective Inspector Richard Thornton said it was unclear at this stage if the Ballynahinch incident was linked to another ATM theft on the Saintfield Road.

He added: “ATM theft and attempted theft is not a victimless crime and these attacks cause untold loss and disruption to people and businesses, many of whom depend on their local ATM provision for access to cash.

“I want to take this opportunity to urge people to continue to be vigilant, and report any suspicious activity they see in their area.

“If your suspicions are aroused phone police immediately.

“Time is of the essence in catching these criminals. No matter how insignificant you think it is, your phone call to us could be key to catching the criminals responsible.”