Alleged Cookstown bank robber ‘caught red handed after dye exploded in cash’

PSNI officer
PSNI officer

An alleged bank robber was caught literally red-handed after a secret dye exploded inside a bundle of stolen cash, the High Court heard on Thursday.

Francis Devine was covered in the stain when arrested within minutes of the suspected hold-up in Cookstown, Co Tyrone, prosecutors said.

The 24-year-old told police he had acted as a prank after going in to cancel a direct debit.

Devine, of Coney Park in Coalisland, was granted bail but banned from entering Cookstown or any Ulster Bank branch.

He faces a charge of robbery over the incident on December 12 last year.

The court heard a man entered the Ulster Bank on William Street and approached the counter with a hand inside the pocket of his hooded top.

Prosecution counsel Kate McKay said he claimed to have a gun and threatened to shoot a member of staff if money wasn’t handed over.

The raider continued to point his concealed hand at the bank teller and instructed: “Fill the bag.”

Although the employee did not know if there was a gun, a roll of money was reached over.

But the bundle contained a smoke and dye pack previously prepared for robbery attempts, the court heard.

Only the front and rear £20 notes were real, with the rest made up of fakes.

Inside the package was an explosive product which gives of a stream of red dye when activated.

Devine was spotted in the area about 20 minutes later, wearing the same type of top as the robber, according to the prosecution.

Police found the discarded smoke and dye pack nearby. It had activated, destroying the two genuine £20 notes.

On being told Devine’s hands were covered in the dye, Judge Gordon Kerr QC queried: “I take it he was caught red-handed?”

Mrs McKay replied: “Quite literally.”

She added: “When asked about his movements he said he was only in the Ulster Bank to cancel a direct debit, and that it was only a joke.”

Devine also told police his actions were totally out of character and fuelled by drink, the court heard.

He offered apologies to the staff member involved and insisted there had been no weapon.

Granting bail, Judge Kerr also imposed an alcohol ban and night-time curfew.