A MAN who held up a Dorset bank with a banana tried to hand himself in to police immediately afterwards, a court heard.

But Laurence Vonderdell had to walk two miles to a police station to get arrested, after officers near the scene refused to take him into custody, the hearing was told.

Bournemouth Crown Court heard that Vonderdell, 50, had initially decided to rob the Nationwide building society branch in Boscombe 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.

However, deciding there were too many people in the Nationwide he switched his attention to Boscombe’s Barclays bank, instead.

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 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 admitted 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, who described her client as a ‘likeable and pleasant individual’. “He exhibited a degree of candour which is rarely seen,” she added.

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 the money and his remorse, Judge Pawson sentenced him to 14 months in prison on both counts, to run concurrently.

DC Andy Hale 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.” Police said they had no record of Vonderdell approaching officers in the street and could not comment.