It was in 1977 that Andre Stander (1946–1984), a high-flying policeman and the son of Major General Frans Stander, an esteemed and celebrated figure in the South African Prison Service, decided to rob his first bank in Durban, South Africa. However, it would later be the audacity with which Stander carried out his robberies that differentiated him from other such contemporaries as Jacques Mesrine (another notable bank robber): on occasion, Stander would commit a bank robbery on his lunch break and return to the scene of the crime as the lead investigating officer.
Having stolen approximately 100,000 South African Rand between 1977 and 1980, as well as robbing no fewer than 25 banks, Stander was arrested and sentenced to 75 years (which later became an actual sentence of 17 years) in prison. It was in Zonderwater Maximum Security Prison, Gauteng, that he subsequently met two inmates — Allan Heyl and Lee McCall — and The Stander Gang (as coined by the news media) was formed.
In August 1983, while attending a physiotherapy appointment outside the prison’s premises, Stander and McCall overpowered the physiotherapist and escaped. Not content with their successful escape, the two fugitives, again in audacious fashion, returned to Zonderwater and sprung Heyl from the maximum security facility. From that day until January 1984, when McCall was killed in a police raid on the gang’s hideout, The Stander Gang began a string of bank robberies.
With the trifecta’s lucrative reign of terror finally coming to an end, Allan Heyl fled to Greece, Spain and England, where he was apprehended and sentenced to nine years for robbery and a related firearms charge. Having served his sentence in the UK, Heyl was extradited back to South Africa and sentenced to a further 33 years in prison.
Meanwhile, Andre Stander, in the midst of an international manhunt, flew the coop to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, while attempting to arrange the sale of a recently purchased sailing yacht, one which was intended for use in the gang’s final getaway. His final moments eventually came when Michael van Stetina, an officer posted at Stander’s Florida hideout, recognised the nearing Stander and attempted to accost him. The result was a struggle between the two men, during which Stander reached for the officer’s shotgun, and the fugitive receiving a shotgun wound, the severity of which saw Stander bleed profusely on the complex’s driveway.
Despite the officer’s best attempts at first aid, Andre Stander bled to death before the ambulance arrived. He is now considered one of the most infamous bank robbers in South Africa’s history.