An armed robber’s attempt at holding up a bank in Coulsdon, London, last November was foiled by a customer who noticed that the would-be robber’s weapon was a fake gun.
Police have released footage of the incident, in which 47-year-old Andrew Fernandez enters the Lloyds branch wearing a motorcycle helmet.
Fernandez approaches the teller and demands money from her while threatening her with what appeared to be a handgun.
At that moment, 34-year-old James Rowley confronts Fernandez. A spokesman for the Met said that Rowley challenged Fernandez and told him to leave, whereupon Fernandez fled the scene.
The spokesman stated that Fernandez attempted to escape on a bicycle.
Rather than allowing the robber to get away, however, Rowley picks up a fire extinguisher and takes off in pursuit.
“With the assistance of his friend, who was waiting in his van nearby, they were able to catch Fernandez and detain him until police arrived a short while later,” the spokesman said.
Rowley told officers that he had seen Fernandez throw an object into a nearby building site; after a search of the area, the imitation firearm that Fernandez had used was discovered.
In November, Fernandez was charged with attempted robbery and possession of an imitation firearm.
However, further investigation connected Fernandez to two nearly identical robberies that had taken place earlier in the year. He was then charged with two additional counts of robbery and two counts of possession of an imitation firearm.
On Monday, he was sentenced to life in prison.
Rowley, a window cleaner, has since been given a national police bravery award and a monetary reward.
As Detective Sergeant David Barnfather said, “The bravery of James Rowley was truly remarkable in confronting what was for all intents and purposes, an armed and extremely dangerous criminal.”
Rowley said that he “acted on instinct” when confronting the robber.
“I thought that the gun wasn’t real and therefore I knew I had to act,” Rowley added.
He also noted that he is “humbled” by the recognition he has received in the incident’s aftermath.