Andre Stander was the most notorious bank robber in South African history. 

But here’s the intriguing part – he was also a police officer. 

Andre Stander

Andre grew up under his dad’s shadow, Major General Frans Stander. Frans was massively respected in the South African Prison Service and he wanted his son to follow suit. 

Andre was not interested in going into that line of work. However with pressure from his father, he became a policeman.

This was a time when apartheid was rampant in South Africa and Andre, like many others, enjoyed the privileges of being a white man. 


His daddy’s influence saw him rise in the ranks faster than most men. But promotions never mattered to him. 

He was in a job he never wanted to join. He divorced his first wife. He had a child out of wedlock that he never cared for. 

Andre Stander

The late ’70s had arrived. But his life had not changed for the better. His attention turned elsewhere. 

One fine morning, he handed out assignments to his squad and headed to the airport in Johannesburg during lunch break. 

He flew to Durban, put on a false wig and beard, walked into a bank and pulled a gun on cashier, but very discreetly, handed her a bag and asked her to fill it up with cash. 

She did as she was asked. Andre did not threaten anyone else in the bank nor did he brag about having a gun. No one else realised what had happened. He quietly walked out, drove back to the airport and flew to Jo’burg post lunch and carried on with policing. 

It was as simple as it gets.


In the next 3 years, he made around 100,000 rand. 

But in January, 1980, after a robbing a bank in Durban, he was finally arrested. He was found guilty of 15 counts of robbery and sentenced to 75 years in prison. But since many charges ran concurrently, he had to serve 17 years at Zonderwater Maximum Security Prison.


During his hearing, Andre had said that he stopped believing in police work after he had to shoot some unarmed protesters at the Tembisa Riots. 

He also claimed he hated apartheid. Many sympathised with him. But other officers said that he was never present in Tembisa.

Andre Stander

In prison he befriended two inmates who were also bank robbers – Allan Heyl and Patrick McCall. They often discussed escaping prison.

In 1983, Andre and Patrick complained of back pains and were sent to a physiotherapist. While at the clinic, they overpowered a few guards and escaped in the doctor’s car and a couple of months later they went back to the same prison to break Heyl out. 

The three buds holed up in a safe house in Houghton. 

Andre Stander

Pretty soon, the trio started robbing again. In the next two months, they hit some 20 banks and made away with 500,000 rand. 

They came to be known as the Stander Gang. Their rules were simple, no violence, no shouting. Just get the money and make it out as quickly as possible. 

They gained popularity. They were outlaws who were embarrassing the government. But after a year of money, alcohol, call girls and enjoying the high life, their fame would be the reason for their downfall.

Their pictures were published in the papers and they decided to leave the country. Andre flew to Florida to make arrangements while Heyl and McCall were to sail there in a new yacht they had purchased. 

Andre Stander

One of the call girls had recognised the pictures in the papers and informed the police. Heyl fled but McCall refused to leave the hideout. He eventually killed himself when the police came knocking. 

By Feb of 1984, international warrants had been issued against them.

Heyl was caught in Britain, in 1985, where he continued robbing banks and was sent to South Africa to complete his sentence. He was paroled in 2005 and has since become a motivational speaker.

Andre Stander

Andre Stander was in the US before Heyl was captured. Stander’s whereabouts became known to the cops. One night he was caught while returning to his hideout on a bicycle.

He tried to get away but an altercation occurred on the spot and he tussled for the policeman’s shotgun. Andre was shot accidentally and bled to death before the medics arrived.

Andre Stander

He still remains an enigma because he charmed people into believing he was a good guy. 

It is said that he would rob banks during lunch hours and come back to investigate the robbery himself. 

It was his audacity to pull off such stuff that made him a legend. But his hunger grew beyond lunch hours and in the end, the so called anti-hero met with a sudden anti-climax.  

Andre Stander

“The fact that Andre was a former police captain suited the romantic notion of good-turned-bad against bad. And that’s where sensationalism became hysteria as never before or since.”

– Allan Heyl (Last surviving member of the Stander Gang)