Desperation drove homeless man to Rugby and Nuneaton bank robberies - The Rugby Observer

Desperation drove homeless man to Rugby and Nuneaton bank robberies

Rugby Editorial 25th Nov, 2015 Updated: 27th Oct, 2016   0

A HOMELESS man carried out an armed raid on a Rugby bank in desperation after falling on hard times.

Trained toolmaker James Keay had been living rough in a tent after losing his job and walking out of his rented home after problems with neighbours.

And he wanted money so he could have a couple of nights of comfort in a hotel – but was foiled by the cool thinking of the cashiers at the Royal Bank of Scotland branches in Rugby and Nuneaton which he targeted.

The 41 year-old of no fixed address pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to two charges of robbery, one of possessing an imitation firearm, and two of having offensive weapons.




He was jailed for five years and four months and was also ordered to pay total of £1,020 in court charges.

Prosecutor Graeme Simpson said on October 8 only one cashier was on duty in the RBS branch in Rugby town centre when Keay came in and approached her counter.


He had an axe in one hand, and in the other was a hammer concealed in a carrier bag which he pointed at her, threatening: “I’ve got a gun. I want all the money.” He then threatened to break the screen.

Believing he did have a gun and might use it, the cashier removed all the banknotes from the till and passed them to him with a bundle of ‘raid notes’ – a wad of notes with a capsule of red dye in the middle which is activated when the bundle is opened.

Keay fled the Church Street bank with £4,374, leaving the axe which he had stolen from a shop earlier that day.

Shortly afterwards a passer-by came across the carrier bag in an alleyway – with the banknotes inside covered in the red dye.

Having ended up with just £4 in coins for his efforts, Keay next targeted the RBS branch in Nuneaton four days later – but was arrested minutes after leaving with £3,650 in cash.

He gave a full account of what he had done that morning and volunteered he was also responsible for the Rugby raid, explaining he was homeless and wanted money so he could spend a couple of nights in a hotel and buy himself a few luxuries.

Mohammed Hafeez, defending, said it was ‘an unusual case’ in that Keay, who was originally from Walsall, had no previous convictions.

He was a trained toolmaker who had worked for almost all of his adult life until he was made redundant from his job at a factory in Wolverhampton in 2004, when he chose to live on his savings rather than claim benefit.

But he ended up living in a tent he had bought, showering at public baths and shoplifting to get food.

Judge Andrew Lockhart QC told Keay: “This is a very, very unfortunate day for you; but it was much more unfortunate for those you chose to attack, because robbery is an attack.

“This was pre-planned, and you waited outside for your moments. But I take account of the fact that you, a 41-year-old man, had become homeless and were desperate for money.”

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