Graeme Martell, pictured prior to his court appearance to close his case, says he is well on the road to recovery and apologized for scaring people when he robbed the RBC bank in 2017. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Former Port Alberni bank robber apologizes for his crime

Now clean and sober, Graeme Martell blames drugs, faulty judicial system for not helping him

Graeme Martell walked into the Port Alberni Royal Bank branch on Sept. 30. 2017, high on drugs, waving an uncapped syringe in front of him and announced that he was going to rob the bank.

Two years later, Martell has pleaded guilty to his crime and wants to apologize to everyone involved that day for the trauma he caused.

Martell was addicted to drugs from 2014–2017. After a brief sober period in early 2017, began using drugs again after moving to Tofino to work in the food and beverage industry.

RELATED: Former bank robber, author Stephen Reid has died

He managed to make his way to Port Alberni where he wandered the streets with a book someone gave to him in Tofino, which he thought at the time referred to the Knights Templar.

Following the bank robbery he told police that he had a bomb that he could detonate with his mind; he was involuntarily committed to the psychiatric ward at West Coast General Hospital and spent several months in custody before he was granted bail.

Martell, now 24, returned to Port Alberni on Oct. 16 to plead guilty and apologize for his actions. He was sentenced to time served and two years’ probation. He says he is not permitted to return to Port Alberni for two years.

Now clean and sober, Martell is publicly apologizing for the turmoil he caused, blaming his actions on drug psychosis. “I, Graeme Patrick Martell, take full responsibility for my actions on Sept. 30, 2017,” he wrote in a two-page letter to media, which he also read to the judge presiding over his case.

“I am embarrassed, ashamed, and have been deeply affected by the impact my crime has had on the victims in the Royal Bank that day, my family, the Crown and the City of Port Alberni,” he said. “I acknowledge the severity of my offences and am aware of the potential consequences for my actions. I apologize from the bottom of my heart and I am truly sorry for the chaos and trauma I have caused all parties involved.”

Martell said it was only through rehabilitation and treatment for his drug addiction that he realized how his actions affect other people.

Martell has spent two years as a volunteer firefighter with the Logan Lake Fire and Rescue department. Martell is living elsewhere and has worked hard to turn his life around, says Logan Lake fire Chief Dan Leighton.

“It appears he had taken a wrong turn and he’s moving forward,” Leighton said. “Part of that is apologizing.”

RELATED: Police arrest suspect in Langford bank robbery

Leighton said Martell was forthright about his past from the moment he asked to join the department, and that’s one reason he decided to give him a chance. “He really regrets the steps he took; he’s come a long way.”

Martell is working with a program in Langley, Infinite Expansion Foundation, that teaches art therapy; he has also done some volunteering with other programs in Logan Lake as a way of moving forward from his crime.

He decided to come forward with his apology because “I’m at the point in my recovery where I’m ready to make amends,” he said.

Martell is also advocating for change in the way people suffering from drug psychosis and mental health issues are treated. He said he has spoken to someone at the Port Alberni detachment about filing a formal complaint against RCMP members who dealt with him in the days leading up to the bank robbery.

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