I'm not Knife Gang mastermind, court told

Date: 07 Sep 2006
Lehasa, rearrested after daring escape, claims he is innocent of attacks The alleged leader of the notorious "Sandton Knife Gang" says he was "stupid" to escape from custody, but denies masterminding at least 18 violent burglaries in the area. William "Big Spender" Lehasa made a brief appearance yesterday at the Wynberg Magistrate's Court, the same court from which he had escaped a week earlier. This time, however, police were taking no chances, and armed members of the Sandton Tracing Task Team ensured he did not try to make another dash for freedom. Speaking candidly to reporters as he was led into court, Lehasa said his escape from court last week "was a stupid thing … Now I have to face my consequences". Lehasa claims he was on his way to a police station to surrender when members of the task team pounced on him in Tembisa on Monday night. The man accused of masterminding at least 18 violent burglaries at townhouse complexes in Sandton said he was "guilty for the escape" but innocent of all other charges. Lehasa's girlfriend, 25-year-old Lebogang Moiloa, joined him in the dock and was charged with aiding and abetting a fugitive. Moiloa was arrested with Lehasa while they were being driven through Tembisa in a BMW. The driver of the car was also detained but later released. Lehasa was brought to court separately from other prisoners and arrived shortly after 11am. The head of the task team, Inspector Gideon Louw, personally helped to escort the prisoner. While his girlfriend hid from photographers, Lehasa engaged them. "Stop taking pictures of me like I killed the whole nation," he said. Then he again invited The Star to visit him at the Sandton police station's holding cells. Inside the courtroom, Lehasa was charged with escaping from custody and was informed of his rights to a Legal Aid representative. The case was postponed to next Wednesday to allow Lehasa and Moiloa to be assigned lawyers. Lehasa, who spent five days hiding from police, was in handcuffs and leg irons. Last week Lehasa and his accomplice Siphelele Quvane, one of five brothers in the gang, managed to unlock their leg irons and run out of a packed courtroom. Quvane and his brother Dumisane - who has never been caught - are still on the run. The gang broke into some of the most secure complexes in the northern suburbs and bypassed high walls, electric fencing, closed-circuit TV cameras and 24-hour guards. They always came unarmed and used their victims' kitchen knives to rob and terrorise them. During their spree they stabbed four people, including an 18-year-old karate champion and a Woodmead man whose heart stopped temporarily after he lost 2 litres of blood. One Sandton man was stabbed 17 times. Siyabonga Mkhwanazi The Star 07/09/06