David James Roach, the Canadian man who robbed a Standard Chartered bank branch in Holland Village exactly five years ago, was sentenced to five years' jail and six strokes of the cane on July 7, 2021.
Peculiar events from start to finish
His robbery, arrest, and eventual sentencing makes for peculiar reading, considering that he could be out of prison after serving 40 months, as he is likely eligible for the two-third remission rule.
Roach, then 26, made off with S$30,450 on July 7, 2016 – exactly five years ago – armed with a piece of paper.
At about 11am that day, he stuck his hand into his sling bag and pretended he had a gun, which he pointed at the pregnant bank teller.
After he fled, he bought a budget AirAsia ticket for Bangkok and left Singapore at about 2:40pm on the same day.
He was arrested in Thailand for bringing into the country cash worth more than US$20,000, including Singapore currency, which is a restricted good.
The Thais refused to send him back Singapore's way, instead choosing to jail him and sending him back to Canada.
He pleaded guilty in Thailand and was sentenced to 14 months' jail.
He was released on Jan. 10, 2018, and was taken to the United Kingdom en route to Canada a day later.
The Singapore Police Force had put in an arrest request, which was why Roach was detained while transiting through Britain.
Roach resisted extradition several times but failed and was handed to the Singapore Police Force.
And this was only after Singapore authorities agreed to a request from the UK not to cane Roach if he was found guilty.
In a press release late on July 7 night following Roach's sentencing, the Attorney-General's Chambers and Ministry of Home Affairs here issued a joint statement explaining that Singapore only agreed not to cane Roach to secure his extradition.
The statement, which was to explain why Roach cannot be caned despite being sentenced to caning, also said that the Singapore government is working through the necessary procedures to fulfil the assurance given to the UK government, while also doing whatever is necessary and permissible within the Singapore legal framework to seek justice against those who commit crimes here.
5 years jail, 6 strokes of the cane
Deputy Public Prosecutor Marcus Foo said Roach committed "daylight robbery" in a "brazen" manner.
Roach pleaded guilty to two charges – one charge of robbery and another charge of transferring the criminal proceeds from his robbery out of Singapore.
Roach's defence lawyer said Roach was having a major depressive episode at the time of the offences.
Persons found guilty of robbery can be jailed between two and 10 years and given at least six strokes of the cane.
Persons found guilty of removing or transferring criminal proceeds out of the country are liable to up to 10 years' jail, or a fine of up to S$500,000, or both.
Why Roach targeted Holland Village branch
Before his arrival he was in Thailand and Nepal.
After days of planning and surveying the area to ensure he could make a smooth exit, the Canadian national decided upon the Holland Village bank branch, which he struck at around 11:25am on July 7, 2016.
He left his hostel that morning wearing dark jeans, a shirt and slippers and carrying a black haversack.
Before entering the bank at Holland Avenue, he put on a grey sweater that he had bought at Bugis Junction for the robbery, a black cap and changed his slippers to shoes.
Roach went up to a female bank teller and handed her a handwritten note that said: "This is a robbery, give me money, don't call the police, I have a weapon."
All the while, Roach had placed his sling bag, concealing his hand on the counter, to give the impression that he was armed with a gun.
Prior to the robbery, Roach stayed at three different hostels in the Chinatown area.
Upon receiving the cash, Roach fled the scene on foot in the direction of Chip Bee Gardens.
Some 160m away from the bank was a cafe where Roach apparently made a quick stop to refuel with a strawberry lamington spongecake and a bottle of San Pellegrino water.
Before making his way to the airport, Roach changed his attire and took a taxi back to his hostel where he discarded the envelope and kept the cash
After which, Roach continued his escape and left the country, arriving in Thailand on the same afternoon at around 4pm.
However, his freedom was short-lived and on July 10, 2016, he was arrested by the Royal Thai Police.
Found with an excess of some US$20,000 in cash without declaring it to the Thai customs, Roach was sentenced to 14 months' jail for money-laundering and violations of currency regulations.
In addition, a notebook detailing his robbery plans, the note that he allegedly wrote and passed to the bank teller, as well as plans for his escape through Chiang Mai and Dubai, were found in his possession.
Homecoming hopes dashed
After serving his time in Thailand's prison, Roach was released on Jan. 10, 2018 and was en route home to Canada.
Thailand opted to send Roach home instead of Singapore's way, as Singapore has an extradition treaty with Britain, but not with Thailand.
However, Roach's homecoming was interrupted while on his layover flight in the United Kingdom on Jan. 11, 2018, where he was arrested based on Singapore's extradition request.
After two years, several unsuccessful appeals against an extradition order, and an agreement by the Ministry of Home Affairs not to cane Roach if found guilty, the robber finally fell into the hands of the Singapore Police Force.
At his sentencing, the judge backdated the jail term to the date of Roach's remand in Singapore in March 2020.
Top image from Singapore Police Force website