Bank Robber’s Handwriting Was So Bad, Staff Didn’t Realize They Were Being Robbed

  • At this point, you just might want to do the old-fashioned newspaper cut-out letter.

It’s always a shocking experience when a person shows up at your workplace and demands all the money from your cash register. Unless you have no idea what they actually want.

One would-be bank robber from the UK might want to invest in a printer for his future heists. The man’s handwriting was just so awful that the staff at his targeted bank couldn’t read the note he used to demand money.


On March 18, retiree Ian Slattery, from St. Leonards on England’s south coast, entered a branch office of the Nationwide Building Society in Eastbourne. The 67-year-old handed the clerk a note he had penned beforehand, so at least he was prepared.

Unfortunately for him, the staff member couldn’t make heads or tails of the chicken scratch Slattery had written down. When they asked for some clarification on what he actually wanted, Slattery turned around and walked away.

According to Sussex police, the staff was able to decipher the letter only a while after Slattery had left emptyhanded.

“Your screen won’t stop what I’ve got, just hand over the 10s and the 20s. Think about the other customers,” he had written.

Realizing that they had almost been robbed, the bank called the police. The cops took the note with them for analysis, together with the security camera footage of the incident.

But for now, Slattery had gotten away scot-free.

“But I didn’t even try to rob a bank!” “We know, your handwriting is just criminally bad.”

Getting Better (at Writing)

Slattery isn’t a man who’s gives up easily, though. Clearly, he was determined that he could do better, because about a week later he decided give bank robbery another try.

On March 26, Slattery tried his luck at another Nationwide branch in his hometown of St. Leonards. This time, he had written his note more carefully and it was actually effective.

Having read the note, the teller became afraid for her safety and forked over the cash to Slattery. He made off with some $3,300.

Again, the cops were called, and they doubled down on the investigation. They were on Slattery’s trail when they got a call from a third bank.

For his third robbery attempt, Slattery had entered a NatWest branch in Hastings on April 1. The staff was able to read the note, but the teller challenged Slattery’s demand and he left without causing further incident.

At this point, the cops hurried over to the last known address they had on file for Slattery. They found the man walking near his house and promptly arrested him.

He was charged with one count of robbery and two counts of attempted robbery. Slattery plead guilty to all charges and received a six-year sentence, four in prison and two on probation.

At least he never physically hurt anybody during his robberies.

Many Such Cases

Bank robbers getting thwarted by their abysmal handwriting is apparently not that unusual. It’s also not a strictly English phenomenon.

In April 2020, a man in the Portola neighborhood of San Francisco arrived at a Bank of the West branch. Like Slattery, he handed the teller a note, but the only words the teller could make out were “all the cash.”

“The teller tried to clarify a couple things, then the guy took the note and went back out,” said Officer Adam Lobsinger, a San Francisco Police Department spokesperson.

“It is strange. Like, ‘Give me all the money. Nope? See you later,’” he added.

In November 2014, FBI called on the public to help identify and locate a man who had attempted to rob a J.P. Morgan Chase bank in Houston. Again, the man had handed the teller a note they just couldn’t read.

The man got frustrated and attempted to grab a bank bag on his own. Failing that, he left the bank in a hurry — only to be arrested some time at Somersville Towne Center mall.

Going even further back in time to October 2011, a man called Thomas Love tried his hand at robbing a WSFS Bank in New Castle, Delaware. Love’s note demanded the teller hand him money in unmarked bags.

“After receiving the note, the teller could not decipher what Love had written, and handed it back to him, and asked that he rewrite it so that it could be re-read,” Delaware State Police said at the time.

Love fled the bank, but the cops picked him a while later after the bank realized the incident had been a robbery attempt.

So, kids, even if you’re aspiring to be a bank robber, stay in school. You still need to be able to write legibly.

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