Bank robbers stole over $500k in daylight heist

| 15/04/2013

CNB robbery_0.jpg(CNS): The trial of five men charged with armed robbery at the Buckingham Square branch of Cayman National Bank (CNB) in June last year opened Thursday before a jury of 5 men and 7 women. Andre Burton, George Mignott, David Tomassa, Rennie Cole and  Ryan Edwards have all denied the crime but a key witness and co-conspirator, who has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentence, has given evidence against the accused gang of robbers, who are said to have stolen over $500,000 during the daylight hold-up. The crown claims that two of the defendants entered the bank armed with one real gun and one imitation weapon, along with the co-defendant, dressed in construction wear with their faces concealed.

The robbers stole from both the tellers and the vault, making off with CI and US cash, some which they managed to drop on the highway during the bungled getaway, when the robbers escape from the bank was blocked by an armored truck.

According to the crown’s case, shortly after CNB opened on 28 June, one of the robbers entered the bank and began asking a security guard about identification as a distraction while two other armed men ran in and commanded the customers and staff to lie on the ground.

The court heard Thursday how one of the men jumped onto a teller’s counter and told her to hand over the money or he would shoot her. During cross examination the customer service representative said that she kept her head down and did as he said because she thought she was going to die. She recalled how the man moved on to her colleague to collect more cash, while another one of the robbers commanded two other staff members to open the vault and give him the money. Despite getting himself stuck in a partition behind the teller’s station, one of the three robbers was rescued by his accomplice before the perpetrators fled with more than a half million dollars.

However, armored truck driver Terry Williams happened to be arriving in the nick of time and was able to block the robbers, who were trying to escape in a white Toyota Windham. As a result, the gang of robbers fled on foot along the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, heading for what the crown said was a second getaway car, driven by another one of the defendants, dropping some of the stolen loot as they ran. The men eventually fled the scene in a Red Chevy Equinox, which was later discovered to belong to the prosecution’s key witness and the robbers’ accomplice.

Later that day, police recovered the getaway vehicle with the suspect hiding inside with a bag of money from the robbery. The man admitted the crime and gave statements to the police concerning the role he and his co-conspirators played, along with the planning and execution of the bank heist. Crown counsel said that three of the defendants went to the same residence following the robbery to hide the money and guns.

According to the crown’s case, DNA tests on swabs taken from the headrests of the getaway vehicle and a cap found inside will show at least two of the defendants in the dock were in the getaway car. The crown also revealed that ‘bait’ money stolen from the bank during the robbery was found in Jamaica sometime after the incident in a stop and search by local police there.

A total of $502,000.17 was stolen from the banks — some $38,000 from the customer service representatives at the teller counters and the rest from the vault.

The trial continues in court one this week and is expected to last approximately four weeks, with the fate of the five men resting in the hands of a 12 person jury rather than the usual panel of seven. Although robbery is usually tried by just seven jurors, as a result of the significant amount of evidence that the jurors will be expected to consider and the length of the trial the jury was increased to twelve people.

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