Charges withdrawn against cleaner who alleged he was victim of tiger kidnapping

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A MAN charged with robbing the Nationwide Building Society in Coleraine where he worked as a cleaner, has had the charges against him withdrawn and a report will now be sent to the Public Prosecution Service for consideration, it has emerged.

25-year-old Christopher Burgess had originally told police he was the victim of a ‘tiger’ kidnapping but in January this year he was charged with robbery and false imprisonment of his girlfriend.

Burgess, of Ballyallaght Farm Cottages in Dunseverick near Bushmills, was accused of being involved in a raid at the Nationwide Building Society in Coleraine on January 10 this year.

In January a defence solicitor said his client rejected any allegation he committed the robbery in which £1,263 was taken but that he was the victim in the case.

A co-accused - Adrian Clarke (32), a hotel night porter of Dunluce Manor, Bushmills - also faced the same two charges as Burgess and a third charge of carrying a firearm or imitation firearm with intent to commit robbery.

At Coleraine Magistrates Court on Monday, Clarke was in the dock to hear District Judge Liam McNally say the charges were being withdrawn and a report will be sent to the PPS for consideration.

A Courts Service spokesperson later confirmed that at the same court, last Thursday - Burgess’ charges had similarly been “withdrawn - to proceed by way of report”.

In January this year a police officer told the court Burgess reported to police that three armed and masked men came to his home address and tied up his partner at gunpoint and ordered him to go to the Nationwide where he works as a cleaner.

Burgess told police he was ordered to steal cash and afterwards he was taken home and taped up.

The police officer said the accused told police that whilst in the Nationwide he received a call which he believed was one from one of the robbers.

The officer claimed phone analysis showed the call was made from a phone belonging to co-accused Clarke and that both work together at night porters at the Causeway Hotel near the Giant’s Causeway.

That court heard Burgess had three jobs - at the Nationwide, the hotel and he was also a carer.

The officer believed Burgess would have recognised the voice of his friend.

The policewoman alleged the route Burgess claimed he was taken from his home to Coleraine was different than that which police believe.

She said CCTV showed him entering the building society and removing money from a cashbox as well as going to a safe and ATM machine and she said Burgess said he was told by the phone caller to try to get entry to the safe and ATM.

The officer told the January court Burgess’ partner said three armed men came to her home and at the time police were still looking for two other raiders and also the stolen money.

The policewoman said Clarke was Burgess’ supervisor at the Causeway Hotel.

Burgess’ defence barrister Michael Smyth told the January court it was a “tiger kidnapping” and that his client had contacted police to say he was taken by two of the masked men, who he believed were armed, in his partner’s car to Coleraine.

Mr Smyth said when his client was initially being dealt with as a witness he told police he used his mobile phone whilst in the Nationwide.

Mr Smyth said it all pointed to his client being an “innocent victim” and then police become suspicious because of a phone call.

Mr Smyth said there was a danger the “victim of a tiger kidnapping” could be remanded in custody and that his client had provided information to the police.

Also at January’s court, Clarke’s defence barrister Francis Rafferty said his client told police he phoned Burgess for an entirely innocent purpose because he was his hotel supervisor and was in charge of rotas and there was nothing unusual in calling him at various times.