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Reward for have-a-go heroes as bank robber given life sentence

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TWO have-a-go heroes who caught an armed robber as he tried to stick up a bank will be given a cash reward, a judge has ordered. Window cleaners James Rowley and Daniel Sandholm will each be paid £1,200 from the Sheriff's Fund for their "bravery" in stopping Andrew Fernandez from robbing Lloyds Bank in Brighton Road, Coulsdon, last November, and holding him nearby until police arrived. This afternoon Fernandez, 47, of no fixed abode, was jailed for life with a minimum term of eight years, after admitting trying to rob the Coulsdon bank and robbing two other Lloyds Bank branches elsewhere last year. On each occasion he used a plastic imitation gun as a pretend weapon and a pedal bicycle as his getaway vehicle. Sentencing him at Kingston Crown Court, Judge Fergus Mitchell stressed the harm he had done to people he had terrified during his attacks, including staff fearful of returning to work. Praising Mr Rowley, 34, of Caterham, and Mr Sandholm, 23, of Purley, he said: "They both contributed in their different ways and I am going to make an award for their courage in relation to their bravery. "[...] It's pretty impressive behaviour on both their parts in detaining this man." The court had heard how Fernandez robbed Lloyds Bank in Mill Hill of £5,429 on July 12 after walking in at around 11.45am, brandishing his plastic hand gun and demanding a cashier hand over the money. He repeated the pattern on September 27 at Lloyds in Watford, Hertfordshire, when he walked in at around 9.45am, demanded cash, and was handed £4,038 before he left and got away on his bicycle. But when he tried to do the same at the Brighton Road branch on November 27 last year, he was confronted by Mr Rowley, who had popped in to deposit some money after work. Prosecuting, Nathan Rasiah told the court: "The customer on this occasion was Mr Rowley, who responded by saying, 'Look, you p****, why don't you just f*** off.' "He [Fernandez] responded by saying, 'I am going to start shooting, I will start shooting through the glass'." Mr Rasiah continued: "The customer persisted by saying, 'F*** off you p****, it is a fake gun anyway, it is plastic'." Fernandez, the court heard, then left the shop shouting as if for back up, before running off and getting onto his bike. But he was chased by Mr Rowley, who threw a fire extinguisher at him, toppling him off the bike. Fernandez then hit Mr Rowley over the head with his crash helmet and ran off, at which point Mr Sandholm, waiting for Mr Rowley in a parked van, ran after and grabbed hold of the robber. Police arrived shortly afterwards and arrested Fernandez, who initially told them he had been attacked and was suffering memory loss. But on April 3 this year he was charged with all three incidents, after police found CCTV and witness evidence. He pleaded guilty on May 19 to one count of attempted robbery, two counts of robbery, and three counts of possessing an imitation firearm. Mr Fernandez had previously been convicted of robbery in 1986 and 1995. Mitigating, Michael Hillman told the court his client had turned his life around since those convictions but then relapsed into crime to feed a cocaine addiction. He said: "It is clear that he really turned his life around in 1999, gained excellent qualifications, building up an excellent business, doing very well. "He started experimenting recreationally with cocaine that unfortunately has resulted in an addiction which has spiralled out of all control and caused him to go back to the sort of offences which he was committing when he was much younger." Judge Mitchell said Mr Fernandez clearly had a supportive family, telling him: "It is just a great regret really that you have so let them down in the way that you have been involving yourself in what are very serious offences. "And the really serious aspect of these offences is what happened to those people who were involved." Reading from statements given by witnesses, he told of one who was "terribly upset and frightened" and "anxious about resuming my role". And a cashier who had been the victim of six robberies before Mr Fernandez told the judge: "The people who do this don't understand what pain they cause." She added: "I am trying to put a brave face on but as soon as anyone asks me what happened I start crying." Speaking after the sentencing, Mr Rowley told the Advertiser he was "a bit shocked" to find the man he confronted had such a chequered past. He added he was "really happy" at the financial reward given by the judge, and pleased at the tough sentence.

Reward for have-a-go heroes as bank robber given life sentence


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