Preston hostage bank manager dies after year-long illness

Roger Ball stayed calm as masked robbers kept him hostage at gunpoint.
Roger Ball stayed calm as masked robbers kept him hostage at gunpoint.

A bank manager whose family was held hostage at gunpoint before a £500,000 robbery in Preston 31 years ago has died.

Roger Ball, who was boss of a NatWest branch in Fishergate when it was raided by a ruthless armed gang in 1988, passed away after a year-long illness. He was 76.

Mr Ball was kidnapped and held overnight before the robbers were able to get into the bank - now Fishers bar - the following morning and lock 62 staff in the vault as they arrived for work.

His wife Jean and 13-year-old daughter Vanessa were bound and gagged at home in Bare near Morecambe before being bundled into the boot of a car and driven to Preston.

"Back then it was the first time in the UK that bank robbers had ever come to the family home and held relatives hostage," said Jean.

"Roger was kept at gunpoint in a disused building in Preston overnight and then they made him go into the bank just after 9am and gather all the staff together to tell them they had got Vanessa and me and they had to do what the men said.

"It was frightening to say the least. But Roger was such a laid back sort of man and dealt with it in his usual calm manner. In fact he was back at his desk the following morning getting on with business as usual."

Mr Ball was with the bank for four decades, starting in Fleetwood and then, through a series of promotions, moving on to Manchester, Kendal, St Helen's, St Annes, Heysham, Preston, Longridge and finally Garstang, where he managed an agricultural banking unit.

"People used to say he was such a lovely man, a true gentleman," said Jean. "And that was just how he was.

"He was such an unassuming man, he didn't like the limelight. That's why, when TV crews and reporters were outside our house and the bank the following day, he just wanted to get on with his job as normal. He didn't want any fuss."

Mr Ball left banking 19 years ago and spent his retirement playing golf at Lancaster GC, walking in the Lake District and tending his "immaculate" garden.

In August last year he was diagnosed with a tumour behind one of his eyes. Now his family are keen to raise awareness of ocular melanoma.

"There is a test which can identify it, but some opticians don't have the optomap equipment," said Vanessa. "After dad's death it is something we would like to highlight."

The funeral service will be held at Beetham Hall Crematorium at 2pm on Monday.

Amongst the mourners will be a man who Mr and Mrs Ball forged a special bond with during regular trips to India. He will be flying over from his home in Canada to attend.

"Mum and dad recognised something special in him as a young man, he was extremely intelligent," explained Vanessa.

"Eventually he came over to study at Lancaster University and lived with them for three years.

"They helped him and I think it was a very special thing they did."