Relief and joy as Carlisles’ opens doors after attack

Relief and joy as Carlisles’ opens doors after attack

27 November 2019

LOYAL shoppers flooded into Carlisles’ in Ballynahinch last Friday when the business re-opened four days after it was left devastated from an attempted ATM raid.

Owners David and William Carlisle were grateful to see regular customers who shop daily, sometimes several times a day, back in their Belfast Road store.

While the store is opened for business, the owners cannot yet put an opening date for its eight forecourt pumps which were destroyed in the raid the previous Monday.

The front entrance of the store was also extensively damaged after a gang used a digger to ram the outside wall to get at the cash machine.

When they failed to get the cash machine, they rammed into the front doors and ransacked the shop, stealing cigarettes, scratch cards and float cash from some tills.

The digger then hit one of the pillars of the forecourt canopy, bringing it down and damaging the fuel pumps.

David’s wife, Donna, said: “It was completely and utterly the worst thing that’s ever happened to the business. We’ve had a few break-ins but nothing to this scale that this has been.

“They came in about 5.30am and just started to go at the ATM. I think police counted that they bashed the wall 38 times to get to it. 

“When the couldn’t get it out, they decided to go into the shop. It was really full on as they were other cars passing by and they didn’t seem to care who saw them. They just kept ramming and ramming for about 20 minutes.”

Mrs Carlisle revealed that her husband arrived promptly on the scene after being alerted by their security company.

The store’s CCTV footage shows his car moving to try and stop the gang’s car from getting away only for the driver of the bucket loader change direction and came after him.

“It was a very frightening experience and we were all just devastated at this,” said Mrs Carlisle. “At least no-one was hurt and that’s my main point. It could have been a different story and we will get sorted out in due time.”

Mrs Carlisle said that there will be a full-time security guard at the store throughout the night for the coming weeks.

She also spoke of the owners’ thanks for everyone who helped them in the clear-up operation and to customers from their continued loyalty.

“The health and safety issues with the shop all had to be sorted out before we could open but once that was sorted out, it was a complete clean-up operation,” said Mrs Carlisle.

“The pumps are still being cleared as they had to be made safe. They are being taken away at the minute but it could possibly be the New Year before they reopen. We can’t really say for definite now.

“The shop reopening work was made possible and with all thanks to the staff and other people who came in to help us. It took everyone to pull together. David Barr and Eddie Cuthbert from Walter Watsons were infallible in helping with the clear-up operation on the forecourt. Jack Griffiths, Andrew Robinson and Calvin Jordan were there every evening after their own day’s work to secure the front wall of the building. 

“Out thanks are due to everyone else — too many to mention — who helped in every way and we cannot thank them enough.

“We are all very grateful to see our customers back shopping.”

It was a lively, party atmosphere in the store on Friday lunchtime as complimentary hot food and sweets were handed out to the shoppers who flocked in.

For shopper Edna Abercrombie, who sometimes visits the shop four times a day, the re-opening was a welcome return to her routine.

She lives just behind the business and was woken from her sleep during the commotion.

“I didn’t see anything but just heard the noise and wondered if it was Glass Seal as it works throughout the night. I didn’t get up but my next door neighbour did, but when I got up at 6am I couldn’t believe it.

“We really missed it as we are so far out of the town. We are delighted to have it back.”

Myrtle and Jackie Rice from Ballynahinch were also glad to see the shop back in business.

“I would do my main shop in here on a Friday and we were just out to do some shopping and happened to realised that it was open again so that’s great.” 

Gayle Bustard and her eight month-old daughter, Hanna, travelled to Carlisles specifically to shop at the store and to show their support.

“I don’t live in Ballynahinch any more but I just wanted to show my support as I thought what happened was terrible.”

Apart from securing the premise and clearing up the mess in the aftermath of the raid, the owners’ needed to do something with the food in fridges.

Their need to dispose of the food happily coincided with a gesture of support from Rev Dario Leal, minister of First Ballynahinch Presbyterian Church, approached Mr William Carlisle.

Mr Leal said: “I had a real sense that I should go and visit Carlisles’ petrol station and store that was savaged by a brutal robbery early on Monday morning.

“I told him that we are praying for him, his family and the employees. I told him to him that we have a food bank for his staff and just as I said that he looked at me and said that he was going to phone our food bank that morning to tell me that he needed it to be able to receive that distribute all the food that was displayed on both fridges inside the store.”

An operation to distribute the food, which needed to be used quickly, was organised with the help of Mr Leal, the food bank run by Ballynahinch Community Collective and Mr Paul Marks, principal of The High School Ballynahinch.

Mr Marks brought around 30 students to help out and with himself and another teacher driving two vans, the food was distributed within three hours to the food bank and to local schools for onwards distribution to any local person in need.

Mr Marks said: “We collected and packed up food and delivered it to our school, St Colman’s High School and Sixth Form College, Ballynahinch Primary and St Patrick’s Primary for them to offer out to anyone in need.

“We put our food out on tables in the reception and it must have been seven shopping trolleys’ worth. We posted on Facebook for anyone who would need the food to come and collect it by 3pm. I was just surprised at the local need of it as it went very quickly.”