Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Great Hillview Bank Robberies

The Hillview branch of the Standard Chartered bank has been located at its present site at the junction of Upper Bukit Timah and Hillview Road since 1957.

It was truly a remarkable landmark in the 'rural' area at that time.  Because it was located beside the KTM railway land, there were no other buildings along the entire Upper Bukit Timah Road stretch from the 8ms (12 km) Hume factory onwards until the 10ms (16km) at Bukit Panjang. It was the only masonry building for the entire stretch on that western side of Upper Bukit Timah Road! It sat on the only plot that did not belong to KTM Railway.

The only other structures were the occasional squatters and shanties built on the KTM railway land itself, probably without permission. I remember that there were 2 houses directly opposite the bank on the other side of the junction of Hillview Road. These were occupied by Indian families who had set up foodshops as part of their homes. Further down Upper Bukit Timah Road, there was a bicycle shop and a provision shop located opposite St Joseph Church. These were also squatters together with some other homes and had been there quite a long time.

Unfortunately, the isolated position of the Hillview Standard Chartered Bank also made it a favorite target of criminals. This little bank holds the reputation for being the most held-up bank in Singapore!
I believe it was connected with at least four robberies but personally I can only remember the last 3 times it made the news.

The last time it was held up was in March 1980 when 3 malay men fired off their weapons in the process of robbing the bank of $40,000. Two of the bank staff were injured but fortunately not fatally. The 3 men were later captured and extradited from Malaysia and were sentenced to jail from 10 years to life imprisonment for the one who fired the gun.

In 1974, two men from the nearby Rheem Hume company were robbed just leaving the bank after withdrawing the company's staff wages. In this incident, the robbers had also fired guns during their getaway. The robbers too were eventually caught, sentenced and imprisoned.

The earliest robbery at this bank was in 1964. Similarly as in the later 1974 case, three armed robbers ambushed and snatched $30,000 from the staff of Gammon Malaya Ltd who had just withdrawn the monthly staff wages from this bank.

Picture of the staff car that was ambushed at Hillview road in 1964.
The Chartered Bank is in the background.

There has been no reported incidences at this bank since 1980 and today the bank still stands where it is. The new Hillview MRT station is being built just adjacent to the bank.

I passed the bank just today and wondered if any more robberies will occur here, especially now when the MRT works are in progress. The bank is almost completely hidden from view due to the construction works!

Picture taken today. Note the obstruction caused by the MRT works.

The bank (bottom right) is semi hidden due to MRT works.


  1. AnonymousJune 11, 2012

    I distinctly remembered that there was a fatal shooting of the guard, maybe in 1974. Thinking about it today, I just realised it could have been one or all of my older siblings trying to scare the daylights out of me. See how traumatised I was for 40years!

  2. My recollection is that the guard was shot in his leg only.