Friends, family of StanChart robbery suspect express shock

Police and Criminal Investigation Department officers at the Standard Chartered Bank in Holland Village after a robbery there last Thursday. Before investigators could figure out Roach's identity, he had fled Singapore the same day for his next stop
Police and Criminal Investigation Department officers at the Standard Chartered Bank in Holland Village after a robbery there last Thursday. Before investigators could figure out Roach's identity, he had fled Singapore the same day for his next stop - Thailand. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Police and Criminal Investigation Department officers at the Standard Chartered Bank in Holland Village after a robbery there last Thursday. Before investigators could figure out Roach's identity, he had fled Singapore the same day for his next stop
Standard Chartered Bank robbery suspect Roach had reportedly mapped in a notebook his escape route from Thailand to the United Arab Emirates.PHOTO: DAVID ROACH / FACEBOOK

Residents in River Ryan, the hometown of alleged Holland Village bank robber David James Roach, are in shock at his arrest.

According to a local media report, friends and neighbours of the family said the Canadian was well liked. Some even believe he was wrongly accused.

The 27-year-old was arrested in Bangkok last Sunday, three days after he allegedly robbed about $30,000 in cash from a Standard Chartered bank branch in Holland Village.

He studied engineering in Calgary, and is from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, in eastern Canada. His parents have a house in River Ryan on the island.

A former classmate, who attended Breton Education Centre with Roach, said he did not believe the allegations. " I think we'll find out this is a mistake," Mr Gerald MacDonald told local newspaper Cape Breton Post.

A neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said that his was an "exceptional family".

A close family friend said Roach is "a nice guy, very smart and athletic". The friend added that Roach was very popular in school and well liked. "Anyone who knows him is surprised that this is the guy they are reading about," she said.

Another neighbour said she hoped the news was not true.

"Their kids couldn't have been brought up in a better environment," she said.

Little is known about Roach, who almost a year ago left his home in eastern Canada to backpack across the world.

He has made stopovers in Turkey and Iran, according to his Couchsurfing website profile, and he hoped to visit Norway, Britain and possibly India or Sri Lanka.

He wrote: "Excited for my first couchsurfing experience!"

Fellow couchsurfers who hosted him and his female friend for a few days in Turkey and Iran last September and October were also shocked to hear the news.

One described him as "quiet". Another said: "He didn't share about himself too much."

They both knew him as a backpacker who loved to travel. He lists his interest as sports, travelling, reading, energy and finance industries, and playing the piano. It is also believed that he was born in Sydney, Australia, before he became a Canadian citizen.

Roach's parents believe that he had been working to pay for his travels.

But on what seemed to be his first tourist visit to Singapore two weeks ago, Roach made the headlines when he allegedly carried out the first successful bank robbery here in more than a decade.

On July 7 at around 11.30am, Roach is alleged to have walked into the Standard Chartered Bank branch, handed the teller a slip of paper with his demands and slipped away with around $30,000 in just minutes.

The same day, he fled Singapore for Bangkok.

On the Thursday evening he arrived in Bangkok, he checked into a shared dormitory room at the Boxpackers Hostel in the popular Ratchathewi district, initially paying for a two-night stay, before extending for another night.

When he was nabbed by the Thai police, he was presumably in his upper bunk bed in a 12-bed dormitory.

To avoid detection, Roach starved himself and slimmed down to appear different from his passport photo, according to the deputy commander of Thailand's tourist police, Colonel Nithithorn Chintakanon.

Since his arrest, Roach has been held at an immigration detention centre in Bangkok. The Thai police cancelled his right of stay in the country after Singapore issued a warrant for his arrest.

The Thai authorities have clarified that they have not "technically" arrested him, and thus, they will not be able to keep him for long. Under Thai immigration law , an immigration offender can be detained for up to seven days, after which each 12-day detention period has to be approved by a court.

The seven days will be up today, but it remains unclear if Roach will continue to stay in Thailand or be released to Singapore or Canada.

Singapore police said last Monday that they were speaking to the Thai authorities about bringing Roach back here. But with a lack of an extradition treaty between the two countries, Singapore will have to make its request through Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Attorney-General's Office. It will also have to send information over quickly to back up its case.

Canada, however, is one of the 14 countries to have an extradition treaty with Thailand. Canadian officials are trying to get him back to the country, Thai police have said.

In the event that Roach is deported to Canada, Singapore will have to pursue the case with the Canadian authorities, though the process could be complicated due to the lack of an extradition treaty with Canada.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 17, 2016, with the headline 'Friends, family of StanChart robbery suspect express shock'. Print Edition | Subscribe