UK & World News

  • 17 June 2014, 3:06

Bank Robber With Fake Gun Jailed For Life

A robber caught by a member of the public after he tried to hold up a bank with a fake gun has been jailed for life.

Andrew Fernandez, who tried to make his getaway on a push bike, was chased down by customer James Rowley, who had spotted the weapon was not real.

And the fake firearm, recovered with the help of Mr Rowley, linked Fernandez to two almost identical robberies.

Mr Rowley has won a 1,200 police bravery award for helping to catch him.

Fernandez, of no fixed abode - who had pleaded guilty to two counts of robbery and one count of attempted robbery - was sentenced to life imprisonment at Kingston Crown Court.

Wearing a motorcycle helmet, Fernandez, 47, had walked into Lloyds Bank, Coulsdon, Croydon, in November, and demanded money from the cashier, threatening her with what appeared to be a handgun.

Mr Rowley, who was inside the bank at the time, spotted the weapon was a fake and told Fernandez to leave.

The robber continued to threaten the cashier and only fled on his bike when Mr Rowley challenged him.

But he was pursued and caught by Mr Rowley, helped by a friend who was in a nearby van, who held him until the police arrived.

Mr Rowley told detectives he had seen Fernandez throw something into a nearby building site.

They later found the fake weapon and detectives from the Metropolitan Police's Flying Squad linked it to the other robberies.

The first robbery took place on July 12, 2013 in The Broadway, Mill Hill, Barnet, while the second robbery took place on September 27, 2013 in Garston Park Parade, Watford, Hertfordshire.

Speaking at the court, Mr Rowley said: "When I saw him enter the bank waving the gun around, making demands I just acted on instinct. I thought that the gun wasn't real and therefore I knew I had to act.

"At the time I didn't think it was brave I thought it was my duty to get involved, ignoring it was not the answer.

"I told him to leave and then he tried to escape I immediately thought no he is not going to get away with this so chased him with the help of my friend, holding him down until the officers came along."

Mr Rowley has also received a commendation for his actions by Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley and will also be awarded a Police Public Bravery Award at the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) annual awards ceremony on June 19.

Detective Sergeant David Barnfather, of the Met's Flying Squad, said: "The bravery of James Rowley was truly remarkable in confronting what was for all intents and purposes, an armed and extremely dangerous criminal.

"Mr Rowley's courage and sense of civic duty are to be applauded and thanks to him Fernandez is behind bars."

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