Shop manager and customers restrained ‘knife man’ during Post Office drama
A shop manager and customers bravely restrained a man armed with a knife who leapt onto a counter and through a hatch at a post office in Ballymena, a court heard.
Details emerged at Ballymena Magistrates Court on Thursday where Martin Kinney (44), of Larne Road in the town, appeared via video link from custody, charged with the aggravated burglary of Ballee Post Office which is situated inside the Phoenix supermarket and filling station at Ballymena’s Antrim Road. He is also charged with possessing an offensive weapon, a knife; assaulting the store manager and posession of cannabis on Wednesday September 29.
Objecting to bail, a police officer told the court police received a received a report of a ‘robbery’ at Ballee Post Office around 9am. She said two female post office clerks said a male was called forward from a queue and “immediately jumped onto the counter and began to climb through a small hatch”.
The man’s face and head were “covered” and when he entered the area behind the counter “feet first” the staff were in “fear” and exited the area whilst shouting that a robbery was in progress.
The filling station manager heard shouting and saw a male attempting to make his way back out through the hatch into the main shop area. The manager pushed his legs through the hatch to prevent him from escaping and was kicked.
The police officer said the manager saw the male had a knife “sticking out” of his pocket. The officer said: “Other members of the public then assisted the manager in detaining the male”.
The male was trying to reach for his pocket during the struggle.
A customer said he noticed a “large bundle of £5 notes” in the defendant’s hand.
Police recovered a “seven inch knife” from the male. The policewoman said the contents of a Post Office safe had been emptied onto the floor and delivery bags had been ripped open.
District Judge Nigel Broderick asked why the defendant was not charged with robbery and the PSNI officer said violence had not been offered to steal as Post Office staff initially fled.
The officer said the Public Prosecution Service has been asked to consider a robbery charge.
The policewoman said the male had been held down by staff and customers until police arrived and he was identified as Kinney who was a regular customer.
The court heard the defendant “made admissions” to offences during interview.
The officer said Kinney had brought a bag with him to the Post Office which he left behind and it contained a “substantial amount of cash and books of stamps”. She said the defendant admitted bringing a knife with him. The officer objected to bail fearing a “risk of re-offending”.
The defendant had 26 previous convictions including robbery, grievous bodily harm with intent when a knife was involved and he is on prison release licence for kidnapping and blackmail which runs to 2023 after receiving eight years in custody and had involved a release from custody in 2017.
The officer said Kinney had £470 of his own money in his possession when arrested at the post office and had told police he had a “drugs debt”.
Defence solicitor Stewart Ballentine said the defendant had expressed “regret” and apologised after making a “full and frank admission”. He said the defendant had done “some shopping” in the store before joining the Post Office queue and it had been a “bizarre” incident.
Judge Broderick said the incident would have been “very scary” for those involved. He told Kinney: “To go to any Post Office armed with a knife, whether or not you used it, but it was there on your person, and to jump in and take all this cash and then struggle, it is a very concerning offence. “You have made admissions and that is in the context of you being on licence for other serious offences”. He refused bail because of a risk of further offending and there was “no suitable address”.
The case was adjourned to Ballymena Court on October 28.