A MAN who held up a bank with a banana tried to hand himself to police immediately after but had to walk two miles to Bournemouth police station to get arrested, after officers near the scene refused to take him into custody.

The court heard that Laurence Vonderdell, 50, decided to rob Barclay’s Boscombe branch on March 25 this year in order to get arrested and secure a roof over his head after being evicted from his Christchurch Road flat.

CCTV footage played in court showed him pacing up and down outside the bank with a Sainsbury’s orange bag wrapped around an object. As he entered the building he pointed the orange Sainsbury’s bag at the sole cashier, Wendy Marsh.

Mr Stuart Ellacott, prosecuting, said: “He told her to give him all the money in the till.” Vonderdell spoke again and, on his third demand for ‘all the £20s’, the cashier complied, activated the emergency alarm and Vonderdell left with £1,200.

The ‘weapon’ concealed in the bag was later discovered to be a banana, said Mr Ellacott.

Anne-Marie Garvie, defending, said her client had seen a police car afterwards and approached officers saying he’d committed an armed robbery and ‘wanted to get arrested’.

“They refused to do that and told him to go to the local police station. He then walked several miles to hand himself in,” she said.

Ms Garvie said Vonderdell had committed ‘an offence to secure a roof over his head’, and had ‘no intention of hurting anyone. “He didn’t want a successful bail application made,” she said, adding that he had no intention to spend the proceeds of his crime and showed ‘demonstrable remorse’ for his actions as well as showing concern for the welfare of the cashier.

The court heard that Vonderdell, who admits robbery and possession of an imitation firearm, suffered with psychiatric conditions, including Anxious Avoidant Personality Disorder and schizophrenia, and had been evicted after breaking the conditions of his tenancy.

“From a human point of view it’s a very sad case indeed,” said Ms Garvie.

Judge Robert Pawson said: “He’s gone into a bank with a banana in a plastic bag. It sounds laughable but the cashier didn’t know that. What would have happened if an armed response unit had been called?”

Describing the case as ‘extraordinary’, and noting Vonderdell’s plea of guilty at the earliest opportunity, as well as the recovery of all the money and his remorse, Judge Pawson sentenced him to 14 months in prison on both counts, to run concurrently.

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.”