Man facing homelessness held up bank with banana ‘to get place to stay in jail’

Court hears how man shouted 'this is a stick-up' armed with piece of fruit

Conrad Duncan
Tuesday 18 June 2019 13:51
Laurence James Vonderdell told police officers he wanted to be arrested so he would 'have a roof over his head'
Laurence James Vonderdell told police officers he wanted to be arrested so he would 'have a roof over his head'

A man facing homelessness who held up a bank with a banana, stealing more than £1,000 before handing himself in to police, has been jailed for 14 months.

Laurence James Vonderdell threatened a cashier at a Barclays branch in Bournemouth with the fruit, which he covered with a plastic bag, and shouted “This is a stick-up, give me the cash”.

Vonderdell approached nearby police officers after the incident and told them he had committed an armed robbery and “wanted to be arrested” but was told to go to a local police station, the court heard.

Bournemouth Crown Court heard how the man, who had recently been evicted from his flat, decided to rob the bank to get arrested so he would “have a roof over his head”.

He reportedly walked more than two miles with £1,200 in £20 notes from the crime to get to Bournemouth police station, where he was detained.

Judge Robert Pawson sentenced the man to a total of 14 months in prison after he admitted to robbery and possession of an imitation firearm.

Vonderdell reportedly first went to a Nationwide branch with a banana on March 25 but decided there were too many customers and chose to go to the Barclays branch instead.

Anne-Marie Garvie, Vonderdell's lawyer, said the man had “no intention of hurting anyone” and had committed the crime to secure a place to stay.

It is also understood that he had no intention of spending the money he stole from the bank.

Detective Constable Andy Hale, of Bournemouth CID, said: "Even though the defendant handed himself in shortly after this incident and the cash was recovered, this must still have been a very distressing incident for the cashier involved."

Although the use of a banana was unusual, it is not the first time a piece of fruit has been used in a robbery in recent months.

In Israel, a man is facing charges for stealing 30000 Israeli shekels (£6,637) after threatening a bank employee with a “grenade” that was actually an avocado painted black.

Agencies contributed to this report