TEL AVIV (Oct. 18)
The police announced that they finally nabbed the “motorcycle bandit” who robbed 22 banks in the Tel Aviv area during the past 18 months, and whose modus operandi included firing one shot into the air after successfully completing a heist. No one was ever hurt.
The desperado was arrested Thursday at his home, a ranch-style villa in the Tel Ganim section of Ramat Gan, an upper-middle-class suburb of Tel Aviv.
Police obtained a court order barring publication of the suspect’s name or photograph, but news sources say he is the 37-year-old son of a director of a major company who lives with his wife and two children in a luxurious home.
The picture of affluence may dissipate the popular image of a modern Robin Hood that somehow became attached to the bank thief, although there was no evidence that he shared his loot with the poor.
The image was one of dash and daring. According to police, the suspect rode a red Suzuki motorcycle on which he made spectacular getaways after robbing a bank. He netted an estimated $400,000 from his 22 bank heists.
Invariably, he wore a black cyclist’s helmet which concealed most of his face. Female tellers who handed him the cash at gunpoint remembered he had “nice blue eyes” and was always polite.
More recently, the thief rode a black bike leading police to think he had done a paint job. But indeed the suspect owned two, and a black Motoguzzi was found in his garage with the red Suzuki.
It was perhaps his fame that was his undoing.
At about 11a.m. local time Thursday, a passerby telephoned police that he saw a man park a black motorcycle with a covered license plate in the parking lot of the Bank Leumi branch in Givataim. The informant said the cyclist was wearing a black helmet.
A nearby police patrol car was alerted and blocked the entrance to the bank. The suspect, realizing he was trapped, raced to his bike and roared away, nearly knocking over the cop.
The chase that ensued might have been staged for prime time television, as the cyclist whizzed through traffic as patrol cars tried to corner him.
They were guided by police helicopters, but the fleeing man eluded them. He was finally spotted by a helicopter pilot driving into his garage and tossing away a plastic bag.
Police arrived soon afterwards, handcuffed the man and led him away. The plastic bag was found to contain a change of clothing and a pistol carried by the bank robber.