This image from surveillance footage captured Shaun Cornish as he robbed a bank in High River

Apologetic bank robber receives stiff sentence

Shaun Cornish robbed nine financial institutions – including one in Vernon – in three provinces

  • Mar. 1, 2017 9:00 a.m.



An apprentice electrician who held up nine banks in three provinces during a two-month crime spree – including one in Vernon – was sentenced on Tuesday to seven years in prison.

Shaun Cornish, 29, pleaded guilty to charges stemming from robberies in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan in late 2014 and early 2015. Prosecutors sought a sentence of up to 12 years behind bars, but B.C. Supreme Court Justice Keith Bracken ruled the first-time offender stands a good chance of rehabilitation, is remorseful and can once again become a productive member of society.

With credit for 13 months already spent in jail, Cornish has another four years to serve in a federal penitentiary.

The defence submitted letters of support from friends and family.

“All the letters have the same theme,” Bracken said. “The charges are surprising to the letter writer and completely out of character.”

Cornish wielded a fake handgun in eight of the nine robberies, typically apologizing to clerks.

Court heard Cornish’s bank-robbing spree began on Dec. 1, 2014, in Princeton. In that case, he used a cellphone to call in a decoy 911 report about a suspicious man with a bat, then walked into a bank armed with an imitation handgun and demanded cash.

Crown prosecutor Evan Goulet said Cornish walked into the bank, sat down across from a teller and asked how her day was going.

“She said, ‘Fine,’” Goulet said. “He said, ‘I’m sorry, it’s just going to get worse.’”

Cornish made off with $485 — a paltry sum in comparison to amounts he collected at later holdups.

Eight days after the Princeton robbery, Cornish walked into an Interior Savings branch in Vernon, pulled his imitation firearm from his waistband and asked for “everyone’s money.”

Goulet said Cornish became agitated, raising his voice and asking tellers if they wanted to spend Christmas with their families. He was given an undisclosed amount of money.

“He apologized, wished them happy holidays and left,” Goulet said.

On Dec. 19, 2014, Cornish pulled a similar robbery at a Scotiabank in High River, demanding large bills only and no dye packs.

“One of the customers asked if he was robbing them,” Goulet said. “Mr. Cornish replied, ‘No, man, I’m not robbing you. I’m robbing them.’”

Again, Cornish was apologetic.

“Mr. Cornish took $2,050, mumbled ‘I’m sorry’ and casually left the bank,” Goulet said.

Four days later, on Dec. 23, 2014, Cornish made off with $4,150 from a Royal Bank branch in Merritt. On Jan. 8, 2015, he robbed a branch of the same bank in Swift Current, Sask., of more than $1,200. In mid-January 2015, Cornish held up banks in Lethbridge, Alta., Claresholm, Alta., and Aldergrove, B.C., before driving north to commit his final robbery.

On Jan. 28, 2015, he entered a CIBC in Dawson Creek, B.C., pulled his imitation pistol and approached a teller, who was counting money.

“Mr. Cornish reached across the counter and took most of the money while saying, ‘I’m sorry,’ and, ‘I know this f—-ing sucks,’” Goulet said.

Cornish, who wore a disguise of sunglasses and a hat for all of his robberies, was done in by a surveillance camera at a store near the Dawson Creek CIBC. It showed a white truck pulling into a parking space, a man exiting the vehicle and returning a short time later.

“His face is exposed at this time,” Goulet said. “There’s cash in one hand and a pistol in the other.”

Police used the licence plate on Cornish’s truck to track him to a hotel in Grande Prairie, Alta., where he was arrested by an RCMP tactical team on Jan. 30, 2015. He has been in custody since.

Court heard Cornish has no criminal record and no mental-health issues. What he did have at the time was considerable debt, a penchant for gambling and a recreational drug habit. He was only months from graduating to become a journeyman electrician before his crime spree began.

“It seems Mr. Cornish’s substance problems, his affinity for gambling and his debt have led to his downfall,” Goulet said. “He appears to be doing well in custody and he has no record. On the other hand, he’s committed nine bank robberies.”

Goulet argued for a prison term in the range of eight to 12 years given the seriousness of Cornish’s offences.

Defence lawyer Dale Melville, meanwhile, has recommended a prison sentence of six years.

“He has no criminal record,” he said. “He’s pled guilty to these offences.”

Court heard Cornish had a healthy upbringing and excelled in school. He lost his job and owed $60,000 to various creditors before deciding to rob banks.


Just Posted

Liberal Party candidate acclaimed for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola

Mary Ann Murphy will be acclaimed at a celebration tonight

Green Party announces candidate for Kelowna-Lake Country

Travis Ashley will challenge incumbent Liberal MP in October’s federal election

Online registration to speed up evacuee processing in Okanagan

Central Okanagan district tests province’s streamlined emergency management digital self-registration

Civil suit brought against Kelowna RCMP officer after ‘abhorrent’ interrogation

The woman involved in the 2012 interrogation is suing the officer and B.C.’s Minister of Justice

Missing Kelowna man found

Albert Henry Johns had been reported missing on June 14 after last being seen May 31

Locked in for love at the Kelowna BC SPCA

Kelowna celebrities get locked in for love at the BC SPCA

’When thunder roars, go indoors’: How to keep safe before lightning strikes

Each year, an estimated 10 deaths and as many as 164 injuries are lightning-related

Doors opened to the new pediatric oncology room at Vernon Jubilee Hospital

After $90,000 dollars was raised children now have a private place for treatment

VIDEO: After 73 years, siblings separated by adoption reunite in B.C

Donna Smith of Abbotsford and Clayton Myers of Williams Lake are glad they met each other

B.C.-born Carey Price brings young fan to tears at NHL Awards banquet

Anderson Whitehead first met his hockey idol after his mother died of cancer

Licence issue delays boozing while cruising on BC Ferries

Planned June launch for alcohol sales delayed

B.C. school mourns after 13-year-old killed by fallen tree on field trip

Teenager died after being struck and pinned by tree while on a field trip near Sooke

Penticton family honours loved one with acts of kindness, free coffee

The family of Kathy Castle want to ensure she is remembered by the community

Most Read