Gardai hunt for armed robbers behind Newcastle West raid

Gerard Fitzgibbon

Reporter:

Gerard Fitzgibbon

A GARDA manhunt is continuing following the daring armed robbery of a Newcastle West jewellery store in broad daylight last weekend.

A GARDA manhunt is continuing following the daring armed robbery of a Newcastle West jewellery store in broad daylight last weekend.

There were dramatic scenes in the town centre following the raid on Cowper’s Jewellers shortly before 3pm last Saturday afternoon. Two men wearing balaclavas entered the premises and held staff at gunpoint while they stole jewellery with a “substantial” value, before fleeing the scene and setting fire to their getaway van at the bottom of nearby Maiden Street. They then escaped in a second vehicle, which was later found burned out near Ballyagran.

It was the third time Cowper’s has been targeted by thieves in 18 months.

Insp Eamon O’Neill of Newcastle West Garda Station issued an appeal for anyone who may have witnessed the raid to come forward.

“They went into a one-way system and blocked it for nearly two minutes. For that period of time, people would have become inquisitive as to what was going on ahead of them.”

The sequence of events began at 2.50pm when a white Mercedes Vito van with false number plates pulled up outside Cowper’s and two men wearing balaclavas, gloves and tracksuits entered the shop, while a third waited in the van.

One of the thieves held two female staff at gunpoint while the other, who was carrying an axe and a hold-all bag, smashed open a display case and took a number of items. They were in the shop for just under two minutes.

They culprits then fled the scene and drove to the junction of Maiden Street and North Quay, where they abandoned the van, set fire to it, and drove away in a grey Saab 95 estate, which also carried false plates. The local fire service rushed to scene to prevent the blaze from spreading after the van had exploded.

The Saab was later found burned out at Coolagowan, Ballyagran, near the Cork border. Gardai have confirmed that both vehicles had been stolen from Limerick city within the past two weeks.

Reports have indicated that a gang from Cork may have been behind the raid.