AN eyewitness to the ATM theft at Tesco Ballymena has told the Guardian they can't understand how the criminals evaded capture by police who were 'right on on their tail'.
The witness, who does not wish to be identified, recalled: "I heard it initially. We were woken up by the noise, looked out and saw the fire. We saw the digger and a black pick up truck with a trailer at the back.
"The truck left Tesco and turned towards the Crebilly Road.
"We called 999 and as I was still on the phone to the operator I saw a police car only seconds later and I thought, brilliant, they've got them.
"The police couldn't have been more than 300 yards behind the vehicle and I can't understand how the thieves were able to get away.
"It was said that police came across the abandoned truck, but if police are saying they weren't limited by any speed restrictions, how were the culprits able to drive off and leave the car when police were so close behind?
"I think police must have believed the suspects were armed and I can understand the hesitation if they did not have the resources,
"There has to be a reason why these criminals were able to get away - I don't think people seem to realise just how close the police were.
"There have been a lot of jokes going round but when you hear the noise and see the destruction caused, you see just how brazen these people are."
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said, "Emergency services have an exemption to breach speed limits on our roads under the Road Traffic Order.
"However, we are also in the business of keeping people safe, both the public and indeed the officers themselves and we are of course accountable for our actions.
"We train our officers to a high range of standards, including high speed pursuits and we have a range of vehicles in our fleet including high performance vehicles.
"Where an officer feels they need to use excess speed or pursue other vehicles with excess speed then they can seek authority to do so throughout the command and control centre.
"The command and control centre will consider the nature of the incident, the training of the driver and the vehicle and other circumstances and decide on whether or not they will authorise such action.
"During the incident in Ballymena following the theft of two ATMs, a number of police vehicles, both in response to pursuing the thieves and in responding to the wider incident, broke the speed limit in a range of areas.
"That was the case during the early hours of last Friday morning in Ballymena and that will be the case as we respond to emergencies throughout Northern Ireland today, tomorrow and indeed going forward to keep people safe.
"There are a range of circumstances where breaching the speed limit may or may not be appropriate , these are considered on a case by case basis and authorised accordingly.
"An immediate risk to life would be at the higher end of our requirement but there are other circumstances too where it may be entirely appropriate to authorise the use of high speed, in pursuit or in response.
"To comment further on specifics of operational matters would only provide information which may be useful to criminals."