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Crime in Hong Kong

Hong Kong bank heist suspect held six hostages at gunpoint in 1987 robbery

Records show To Hoi-keung, 57, spent years behind bars for various crimes since he entered city illegally almost 40 years ago

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 March, 2018, 9:50am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 March, 2018, 12:01am

The man arrested for allegedly robbing the Bank of East Asia headquarters in Central on Wednesday was jailed three decades ago after holding six people hostage at gunpoint following an armed hold up at another bank, court records and past media reports show.

To Hoi-keung, 57, sneaked illegally into Hong Kong from the mainland in 1979. Since then, he has spent most of his days behind bars for a long list of convictions. 

His most desperate bank heist took place 31 years ago, and saw gunshots fired followed by a tense seven-hour stand-off with police.

At about 3.30pm on April 27, 1987, To targeted a branch of the former Dao Heng Bank on 427 Hennessy Road, at the junction with Canal Road West, in Causeway Bay.

Working alone and armed with a 22 calibre revolver and about 20 rounds of ammunition, To entered the branch and pointed the gun at a teller, according to media reports from that year. 

Some HK$154,300 in cash was stuffed into a white plastic bag the robber handed to the teller. Before fleeing the scene, To fired a shot in an apparent attempt to scare off possible pursuers. No one was injured.

Man, 57, arrested in armed robbery of Bank of East Asia

When he was running past 417 Lockhart Road, a block next to the crime scene, he was seen by a bank worker who was assisting police in the search. An officer fired a shot at him but missed.

To then spotted a red minibus stopped at the junction of Lockhart Road and Canal Road West and climbed into the vehicle through a window.

The robber proceeded to hold the four men – all minibus drivers – and two children on board hostage at gunpoint.

Police negotiators, including the prominent Peter Morgan and Charles Wong Doon-yee (both retired assistant police commissioners by now), approached the minibus and spoke to To, who later released five of the hostages but held on to a 13-year-old boy.

At about 10.30pm that night, he turned himself in after getting a written guarantee from police that he would not be harmed and would be given his favourite food after surrendering. 

To was sentenced to 16 years in jail in July that year.

Hong Kong police hunt for masked robber in botched bank heist

The Dao Heng incident was not To’s first time targeting a bank. Just weeks before, on April 4 the same year, he made off with about HK$31,000 from a Shanghai Commercial Bank branch.

After his long prison stint, To’s name re-appeared in newspapers in 2000, after he robbed a prostitute from Thailand and was jailed for another two years. 

In 2002, he robbed or attempted to rob four prostitutes at knifepoint within a month. On one such occasion, To also wounded a man. He was convicted and jailed for 10 years in April 2003.

On January 10, 2016, To was said to have stolen a golden chain worth about HK$23,000 (US$2,940) from a jewellery shop on Pei Ho Street in Sham Shui Po. 

He reportedly walked into the shop and asked a shopkeeper to show him some gold, but left without buying anything. The gold chain was later discovered missing, and To was arrested in Tin Shui Wai four days later. 

On Wednesday night, To was arrested in Tin Shui Wai for allegedly holding up the Bank of East Asia headquarters. 

Police had searched the city for hours before catching the suspect, who was seen on CCTV footage pointing what appeared to be a pistol at employees. He was believed to have taken HK$70,000 in cash.

To was arrested at about 7.50pm the same day. Officers recovered the money and the weapon, which was confirmed to be an airgun.