Knife-gang leader nailed

Date: 05 Sep 2006
Delighted cops rearrest 'Big Spender' after five-day manhunt Five days ago he made a daring escape from court - but the leader of the notorious "Sandton Knife Gang" is now back behind bars. William "Big Spender" Lehasa was rearrested last night in Tembisa after escaping from the Wynberg Magistrate's Court on Thursday. Members of the Sandton Tracing Task Team pounced on Lehasa after receiving a tip-off from an informer. Four police officers caught him off-guard at about 7.30pm while he was being driven in a BMW. The driver, as well as Lehasa's girlfriend, were also detained at the Sandton police holding cells. Lehasa did not resist arrest, said police spokesperson Superintendent Chris Wilken. "We are delighted that we arrested the leader. Everyone was furious when they escaped. But we will not rest until we get his accomplice," said Wilken. Siphelele Quvane, one of five brothers operating the gang, is still on the run. But, with fresh information, police were planning to work through the night to try to arrest Quvane, whose brother, Dumisane, is also a fugitive. At about 9pm last night, Lehasa was sitting in the corner of an office at the Sandton police station, his hands cuffed behind his back. While being photographed, Lehasa asked The Star's photographer to come and see him at a later stage. Inspector Gideon Louw, who heads the task team, was among the proud officers who executed the arrest. "Now that we have the main guy, it will be easier. He can shed light on how they escaped from custody and where the others are. We are not going to rest until we get the others," said Wilken. On Thursday, all six gang members were denied bail, and soon afterwards they tried to make a run for freedom. Three never got out of the courtroom, and one, Gigimane Quvane, was caught at the gate. All the suspects had been wearing leg-irons during their appearance but managed to remove them on the stairs leading down to the holding cells. An internal investigation has been launched into the two police court orderlies on duty. On Friday, Gauteng MEC for Community Safety Firoz Cachalia visited Sandton police station to address the task team. Afterwards, he said they had "all the resources they need to track these people down". "Furious" police had to call the gang's victims to tell them about the escapes. Before their arrest in July, the six suspects - plus a seventh wanted man - are said to have robbed at least 18 upmarket townhouse complexes in the northern suburbs. The robbers came unarmed, but then used their victims' kitchen knives to torment families. During their spree they stabbed four people, including an 18-year-old karate champion and a Woodmead man whose heart stopped temporarily after he had lost 2 litres of blood. The gang bypassed walls, electric fences, alarm systems, surveillance cameras and 24-hour guards, and never left a clue. They spent about an hour inside each home, always wore dark beanies and gloves, and smoked Courtleigh cigarettes. The gang struck between midnight and 5am, and fled each time with goods valued at up to R500 000. The gang will appear in court again on Thursday. But this time the security around them will be beefed up, Wilken said. "From now on we know we are dealing with suspects who are prepared to do anything to escape. We will increase the (number of) policemen and guard them with everything we have." By Alwex Eliseev The Star 05/09/06