Chapter three of the book Murder one: A Writer’s Guide to Homicide by Mauro V. Corvasce and Joseph R. Paglino is about financial murders. I’m not covering everything in the chapter, so if you’re interested in getting all of it, buy the book. Today I’m skipping ahead to covering up a bank robbery. Following the authors outline, I’ll discuss the scenario, motives, methods, and the capture.
Scenario: Bank robbers sometimes get their grand idea in a brilliant brainstorm and act immediately by walking into any old bank and robbing it. This is called a crime of opportunity. Most of these guys are caught because they didn’t plan ahead: gloves, mask, weapon, bag for holding money. They rarely net more than five thousand dollars for their hard work, and if they get a chance to spend it before they’re caught, that’s all the benefit they get. The best bank robbers (if there is such a thing) plan ahead. Sometimes they even include a partner or two or six. Even with the best-laid plans, people can end up dead: bank guard, police officer who responds, witnesses (anyone caught looking at the robbery or anyone acting hysterically are at risk), or even the partners.
Motives: The motive for killing during the commission of a bank robbery is pretty simple: they don’t want to get caught, and/or they want the cash (greed).
Methods: An experienced bank robber plans the perfect robbery. He expects certain things will during the robbery (customers will be frightened, tellers will try to hit panic buttons, guards will go for their guns). It’s when something out of the ordinary occurs that things can go horribly wrong. An off-duty police officer is a customer. A security guard has an over-developed sense of justice. The robber does drugs/alcohol before going into the bank and his body reacts strangely. All these factors, plus the robber’s fear of getting caught, lead to a higher chance of someone being killed. (Side note: the authors bring up a humorous situation in which the robbers got the money, but dropped it and fled when something went wrong. Adding a touch of humor to your fiction is great because it catches the reader off guard, and therefore it’s memorable.)
Investigation/Capture: Corvasce says, “A common misconception about bank robberies is that the FBI is always called in because the money is guaranteed by government insurance. In actuality, the only time the FBI assists in an investigation is when either a weapon is used or a threat of using a weapon is made.” For this reason, many robberies are investigated by local authorities. Robberies usually aren’t too difficult to solve because of the number of witnesses involved. Armed guards and security cameras provide accurate descriptions of the robber–and once they have a description and identify the perp, they usually find all the proof they need: bags of cash.
Here’s another little tidbit: A large number of robbers are caught while they’re still inside the bank or just exiting the bank. You can use this believably in your fiction if you need the action to end quickly. If it’s your main plot, then you’ll definitely want your robber/murderer on the run.
Keep in mind it’s the little details that will lead to his ultimate capture: witnesses, forensic evidence, family member/friend turning him in, etc.