N.S. man's scheme to rob credit union fell apart quickly, says convicting judge

·2 min read
The Valley Credit Union in Canning, N.S., was the site of a botched robbery attempt in June 14, 2019. (Google Maps - image credit)
The Valley Credit Union in Canning, N.S., was the site of a botched robbery attempt in June 14, 2019. (Google Maps - image credit)

A Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice has convicted an Annapolis Valley man of trying to rob a credit union two years ago, saying the would-be thief hatched a plan only to abandon it almost immediately after he was spotted by bank employees.

In a written decision earlier this week, Justice Kevin Coady said the facts of the case against Leif Spilchen "are inescapable."

"On the morning of June 14, 2019, Mr. Spilchen miscalculated when he decided to rob the Canning credit union," Coady wrote. "The plan quickly fell apart and had to be aborted."

According to evidence at Spilchen's trial, employees of the Valley Credit Union were getting ready to open for the morning when they noticed a masked man in the foyer of the building.

Panicked, they fled through a side door while the masked man banged on a locked inner door, said the branch manager.

Security video played at trial

Security video played at the trial showed a man wearing a black tuque, dark sunglasses and a scarf covering the lower part of his face. He was also carrying what appeared to be a handgun, although no weapon was ever recovered.

The video showed the man kicking at the locked doors and appearing to fire a handgun. He then leaves.

A witness at a nearby construction site testified that he saw a man wearing baggy clothes approaching on foot while limping. The witness said the man pointed what appeared to be a handgun and said, "Don't ... look at me."

That description helped satisfy the judge that Spilchen, who walked with a limp, was the masked man.

Accused fired lawyer during trial

Spilchen was arrested less than an hour after the attempted robbery.

After the Crown finished presenting its case at the trial, Spilchen fired his lawyer and testified. He tried to implicate someone else in the attempted robbery but the judge wasn't convinced.

In his decision, Coady also said he was troubled by things that happened before the trial.

A month after the attempted robbery, Spilchen appeared alone in provincial court to request a release from jail. Toward the end of that hearing, Coady said Spilchen blurted out that he was pleading guilty and that he didn't stand a chance in court.

Following that outburst, Spilchen was sent for a 30-day psychiatric assessment, but he was eventually cleared for trial.