Chris Ward was the first suspect accused of being part of the bank robbery and of manipulating work rotas in order for it to be carried out. Following the robbery, Northern Bank put Ward on sick leave whilst the police investigation continued. During a ten-minute hearing in early December 2005, Ward denied the charges against him and instead accused the police of bugging him at home and abroad, in an attempt to frame him. He was remanded in custody until 4 January 2006 and then released. The charges against Ward for imprisoning McMullen and his wife were dropped.
“It was just terrifying… even the fact they knew I was involved in Celtic [football club], they knew where I lived, they knew my family, they knew my family’s names, they knew about my brother and his girlfriend. You are walking up the street now and you are wondering: Is someone watching me?” - Chris Ward
A 22-year-old woman, believed either to be an employee of Northern Bank or a friend of Ward’s was also taken in for questioning but later released.
The second suspect was Dominic McEvoy, 23, a building contractor from County Down. On 2 November 2005 he was arrested and charged with possession of a gun or imitation firearm and for taking McMullen and his wife hostage as part of the Northern bank robbery. When McEvoy appeared in court on 4 November 2005, the Public Prosecution Service withdrew the charges after studying police files and he was released.
On 2 November 2005 a third man was arrested and charged in connection with the Northern bank robbery. Computers, discs, a passport, bank statements, credit cards, wage cheques and phone records were seized. The 30-year-old man was held for questioning and appeared before Belfast magistrates on 9 November 2005. He was charged with collecting and making a record of information to be of use to terrorists. He too had the charges against him dropped and was released.
In late November 2005, Martin McAliskey, 40, a salesman from County Tyrone, was accused of withholding information and attempting to pervert the course of justice. He was being held responsible for the white Ford Transit box van used to transport the stolen money. The van had crossed the border from the Irish Republic a few hours before the bank raid took place. Charges against McAliskey were later withdrawn.
In mid-February 2005, seven suspects were arrested in several co-ordinated raids that targeted suspected IRA money-laundering operations across the Republic of Ireland. Police believed the nearly £3 million recovered during the raids to be part of that stolen from Northern Bank but it could not be confirmed. Later that month, £60,000 was found in a toilet at the Police Athletic Association’s Newforge Country Club. Following forensic testing of the money, police confirmed it to be part of the Northern Bank heist but believed it was planted to divert their attention from events elsewhere.
The beleaguered investigation of the Northern Bank robbery continued and in February 2006, police raided the home of former Sin Féin councillor, Francie Braniff. The following month, police chiefs were accused of a botched investigation into the Northern Bank robbery, with charges against suspects repeatedly being withdrawn by the Public Prosecution Service, and with no firm evidence in their case.
Chris Ward still stands accused by police as being part of the robbery. He was remanded on bail and is due to appear in court once more, in late April 2007. Investigating detectives have appealed to the public for anyone who may have witnessed Ward handing over the sports bag of money to one of the gang members at a bus stop in Upper Queen Street on Monday 20 December 2004, to come forward. On 15 April 2007 leading investigator, Detective Superintendent Andrew Sproule, released CCTV footage of that evening. It showed Ward leaving the Donegall Square West branch of Northern Bank, carrying a distinctive sports bag bearing the UMBRO name and logo, and handing it to an unknown man at the bus stop.