The inside story of the bank robbery that never was

Last week's reports of an attempted robbery at a St. John's bank turned out to be more of a comedy of errors, writes Adam Walsh.
What was originally believed to be a robbery at this Scotiabank on Cornwall Ave. in St. John's turned out to be a comedy of errors. (Amy Stoodley/CBC)

Without crunching any numbers, I will just say that it feels like there's an awful lot of armed robberies lately.

A convenience store here, a gas station there, and even a mugging or two.

So when word broke in St. John's last week of an attempted armed robbery at the Scotiabank on Cornwall Avenue, I thought, of course — another one.

And I say attempted armed robbery because that's the news alert I got from VOCM in my inbox.

The RNC is confirming reports of an armed robbery on Cornwall Avenue in St. John's. It happened at the Scotiabank around 2:30 this afternoon. Police have no further details at this time, but reports to VOCM News indicate two men were involved with one entering the bank masked, the other waiting in a getaway vehicle.

On the scene, we saw one police car after another.

Next, our newsroom got a note that the RNC would take questions on an attempted robbery.

Then we got a news release that had the incident downgraded to "RNC Continues to Investigate Suspicious Activity."

The release confirmed the police received reports of a robbery in progress … but then said there was no actual robbery.

Three days later, on Sept. 9, the RNC sent out an update.

Police were dispatched to the bank after receiving a call about a potential armed robbery. (Amy Stoodley/CBC)

"The RNC General Investigation Unit has concluded the investigation into the reported activity in the area of the Scotia Bank on Cornwall Avenue and determined that no criminal offence had occurred," the statement said.

Left curious, I did a bit of digging and confirmed the following story with Scotiabank.

Here's what really happened. First, the back door alarm went off at the bank. At that moment, a guy was withdrawing cash from a bank machine. Given the alarm was ringing, he exited the bank rather quickly.

Parking for the Scotiabank on Cornwall Avenue is at the rear, which is where the guy's car was parked, with his friend in the passenger seat waiting for him.

Why look ... a mask!

This is where the story gets interesting.

For some reason, he had a mask in his vehicle.

As performers know, great comedy involves timing. Mask now in hand and alarm blaring, he put the mask on and made some sort of robbery joke to his friend.

They were not actually alone. Someone else just happened to be down the street, watching the whole thing.

Here's what they saw. An alarm was ringing at a bank, and a masked man was in a car, at the rear, about to drive away.

So, said onlooker took down the licence plate number as the vehicle drove off.

Cue a bank employee, who came outside to check out the whole alarm-ringing situation.

I'll leave it to you to guess how the conversation with the onlooker went.

Next thing you know, the bank is surrounded by squad cars and word spreads faster than you can say "stick 'em up."

No guns, no robbery, nothing but a comedy of errors in a city that could use a good laugh. The RNC knew quickly there had been no crime.

As for the alarm, the bank is still looking into what caused it to go off in the first place.