The Great Brazilian Bank Robbery

On June 3, 2014 I was on the Brazilian island of Ilhabela. In the middle of the night, I experienced a real Brazilian bank robbery complete with bombs and guns. I wrote a story about it and was very fortunate to have it edited and dramatized by the one and only Roman Britons. Visit his blog for the original post! This is a true story! Enjoy…



We are in our hostel. Asleep. Its 3:45 AM. BOOM!! BOOM!! What the heck was going on? The first BOOM catapulted me awake before the realisation that we were close to the island’s port and maybe a container had worked loose. The second BOOM came five minutes later and was followed by a rapid POPPING noise and plenty of shouting.

The Brazilian in the next bunk over jumped out of bed and ran downstairs.

“Hey Nick” said the Canadian in the other bunk “are those firecrackers? Some crazy late night celebration? (the semi-final hadn’t happened at this point).

“They’re gunshots” I replied “Definitely gunshots. I’m from Chicago, I know gunshots when I hear them! But yeah, some crazy last-night celebration probably.”

“Should we check it out?” asked Canadian Ben.

“Nah – the owner’s not here, the receptionist only speaks Portugese, it’ll all be over in a minute.”

I was awake anyway, so I got up and went to the bathroom. I wasn’t worried, but I left the light off. No need to attract attention. The shots continued. They got louder. The shouting continued. It got a lot louder.



The Brazilian burst back into the room, he was in a sweat: “No English! No English! Bomba Booooom!”  He grabbed my hand and put it on his heart. It felt like it was going to explode out of his chest. “Bomba, Bomba!

Bombs? Well that explained the explosions but wtf was going on? I lay back down on my bed and Ben went into the bathroom. He kept the light off too. The shooting got even louder, it was right outside the window. Were they going to break in? Rob us? Shit, they could have what they wanted. It’s only stuff. Except my camera. That’s my baby. Nobody touches baby.

The Brazilian shuffled over to the window, a shot rang out, and screaming, he fell heavily to the floor. Ben, peering out from the bathroom threw himself to the floor. I ran out of the room and into the stairwell. Who the hell were these guys and what the hell did they want? How many were there? There were shots everywhere by now, the echo effect of the stairwell amplifying and distorting the gunfight into warzone conditions. I needed to find help and I needed it quickly. Where were the police? Anybody? I started to facebook everyone online, I didn’t know what else to do. Only Maggie replied “Be Careful” she said. Yeah, right.


It’s Over

By 4:15am, thirty minutes after the first BOOM, it was all over. They hadn’t breached the building, the shots started to recede and I heard the sound of a highspeed boat starting up. I went back to the room. Both guys were OK, not shot, but soaked in sweat and locked in silence. Another 30 minutes went by and the hostel owner, Daniel, pitched up. He’d come over to check on everyone and he explained:

“Some men came by boat, bombed then robbed three banks and three ATMs, came down our street to go back to the sea, and escaped by boat. It’s all over now. This has never happened before on the island and it’s not normal, so you shouldn’t worry!”

“Did the police catch them?” I asked. He looked back at me, shrugged and then, nodding all the time told us that the police were probably part of the set-up.



By the next morning a small crowd had gathered outside our window. We went down to see what was going on. The car parked outside our window had a shattered backscreen and a bullet still lodged in the dash. Shells lay about. Another bullet hole was in the front wall right by reception. Just under our window!

Bullethole in a guest's rental car in Ilhabela, Brazil

Window of a guest’s rental car

Bullet shell in front of the hostel in Ilhabela, Brazil

Bullet shell in front of the hostel

Bullethole in the front of the hostel in Ilhabela, Brazil

Bullethole in the front of the hostel

We took a wander up the street. Two banks had been completely blown up and the corner ATM was gaping a mortal wound.

Bombed out bank in Ilhabela, Brazil

Bombed out bank

Bombed out bank in Ilhabela, Brazil

Bombed out bank

Glass on the street from the bank bomb in Ilhabela, Brazil

Glass on the street from the bank bomb

Bombed ATM in Ilhabela, Brazil

Bombed ATM

We returned to the hostel to see our Dutch friends, Julie and Esmee. They had laid low and stayed calm throughout the whole night!

Calm Dutch and panicked Brazilians – an omen for the World Cup third place play-off??

Leave a Reply