A lifelong criminal who robbed banks to buy “cigarettes, beer, pot and hotel rooms” was sentenced to 12 years today for three armed heists of the CIBC bank in Colwood.
Originally set as a bail hearing this morning, Lorne Rodway, 59, pleaded guilty to three armed robberies, three counts of wearing a mask with intent to commit a crime and one count of assault.
Rodway admitted to West Shore RCMP officers shortly after being arrested that he was the masked man who held up the same CIBC bank on March 2, April 9 and June 1 of this year, Crown prosecutor Susan Rupertus told the court.
“At the West Shore detachment he admitted to all three robberies,” Rupertus said. “He said he does it because that’s what he does. He said it’s just business, nothing personal against CIBC or the tellers, it was just an easy mark because of the setup of the bank.
“He said he spent the money on cigarettes, beer, pot and hotel rooms.”
The court heard that during the March 2 holdup, Rodway walked into the bank at 10:30 a.m. in a hoody, dark glasses and a dust mask, produced his black .375 Ruger revolver and pointed it at a female teller. He fled with about $8,000 in cash.
On April 9 he returned to the Colwood bank, this time masked in a red balaclava. “He pulled out a black revolver, pointed it at the teller and asked for money,” Rupertus said. “In that instance, it was (the teller’s) first day of training.”
Bank staff recognized the robber’s voice as gruff and distinct, and said he was acting agitated and more aggressively than during the first robbery. He got away with about $6,000 and ditched a hidden dye pack.
On June 1 at about 1 p.m. he returned to the bank for a third time. Clad in his balaclava and gun drawn, he approached a CIBC security guard outside the bank and told him to get inside.
“The security guard hesitated. At that point Mr. Rodway said, ‘Do you want to get f–ing shot?’” Rupertus said. “The guard didn’t move immediately so (Rodway) cocked the gun back to show how serious he was.”
Inside the bank, he menaced the same teller from the first robbery and indicated he wasn’t happy about finding an explosive dye pack the last time around. He fled with about $4,000 after being in the bank for less than 30 seconds.
Meanwhile, the same guard had called 9-1-1 on his cellphone and trailed Rodway, at a distance, out the door. The guard was able to relay the robber’s car make and licence plate number to police.
Within minutes, three or four West Shore RCMP cruisers blocked in Rodway at the Shell gas station a few blocks away on Sooke Road. Police arrested him at gunpoint and he didn’t resist.
Rupertus said investigators found money, the gun and disguise in the vehicle, and Rodway quickly confessed to the other robberies during questioning at the West Shore detachment.
Custody may have come as sweet relief for the aging bandit – his health is failing and, as Rupertus pointed out, he has likely spent more time in behind bars than as a free man over the past 40 years.
Rodway was first convicted of armed robbery in 1973 and was sentenced 10 years. He was convicted and jailed again in 1983, 1989 and 1999 for a total of seven more robberies, and was paroled in 2004.
“Mr. Rodway has spent considerable time in custody, and to a degree he is institutionalized,” observed Rodway’s defense attorney Alex Tait. “Over the years, he has grown more comfortable in a federal (prison) setting.”
Rodway, an alcoholic all his life, suffers from high blood pressure and heart problems, Tait said. His client had five coronary bypass surgeries in 2004, he said, and faces another this year.
Tait agreed a 12 year sentence is fair due to the use of a weapon and trauma inflicted on people at the bank, but noted due to his age, his client may never walk out of prison again.
“He is a man who has lived a hard life and who faces a lengthy sentence,” Tait said. “Due to his health and the length of sentence, he may never see the light of day.”
Provincial court judge Evan Blake agreed the 12 years recommended by Crown and defense counsels is proportionate to the severity of the crimes. Blake sentenced Rodway for 12 years for each robbery, seven years on each charge of wearing a mask during a crime and four years for assault, all concurrent.
Wearing grey prison garb and with slicked back white hair and sporting an ample handlebar mustache, Rodway looked older than his 59 years. He observed the proceedings calmly from the prisoner’s box at Western Communities Courthouse and answered the judge’s questions in a clear voice.
Given the chance to speak, Rodway apologized for his crimes.
“I’d like to apologize for putting people at the bank, the security guard and tellers through the trauma. I wasn’t out to harm anyone, I was just there for the money,” Rodway said to the judge. “I do apologize for the trauma they suffered.”
It remains unclear if Rodway is responsible or suspected of other bank robberies within the past few years. West Shore RCMP distributed a bulletin with a photo of Rodway, his vehicle and weapon to police departments in Greater Victoria and across Vancouver Island, but have heard no response.