By Michael Schmidt
Bank robber Andre Stander's only child told this newspaper exclusively this week that he'd love to speak to sole surviving Stander Gang member Allan Heyl, released from prison on Wednesday, about the father he never knew.
Ernie Amos, 33, is the love-child of a brief liaison that Stander had with student teacher Pat Amos during a 1972 hiatus in his two marriages to his wife, Leonie.
"I only found out when I was 21 who my father was," Amos said in an earlier interview.
"My mother and I had an argument and she said: 'You'll turn out just like your father.' I was shocked because I knew the Stander Gang story. In retrospect, I remember how intensely my family followed the story."
On Friday, Amos, who has proved his mother wrong, starting careers as a gospel guitarist and a professional golfer, said he had enjoyed the 2003 movie Stander, which dramatised the events leading to his father's death in a hail of police gunfire in America in 1984.
"It wasn't too Hollywood. It seems like it was factual and pretty close to reality, although I'm not so sure whether it was as politically correct as it was made out to be," Amos said, referring to a fictitious scene in which Stander, then a police captain, apologises for having taken part in police violence in Thembisa in 1976.
Heyl, Stander and Patrick Lee McCall embarked on a three-month, 20-bank robbery spree in 1983/84 that had South Africa agog, but ended bloodily with the death of McCall in a Houghton, Johannesburg, fire-fight and with Stander's death in Florida, in the United States.
Heyl was jailed in Britain in 1985 for a bank robbery committed there, and in 1991 was transferred to South Africa to serve the rest of his sentence for the Stander Gang's exploits. He was released on parole on Wednesday.
"With Allan coming out, I don't quite know what to say. It's a bit of a blind spot in this whole thing," Amos said.
He had previously joked that if he were able to meet his father today he would ask him: "Where'd you hide the bloody money?"
The gang raked in half a million rand, at that time a considerable sum. But on Friday, Amos was far more pensive.
"I do have it in the back of my mind to have a nice sit-down chat with Allan for half an hour. In reality, he's one of the guys who would be able to tell me the most about my dad's personality. It would be wonderful to meet him."
Amos said that an ex-car thief who had known Stander while serving with the SANDF in Angola had suggested that boredom, not the collapse of his marriage and the trauma of Thembisa, had pushed Stander over the edge into criminality.
"He said the stuff he and my dad did there in Angola gave them the rush of a lifetime, so afterwards they were bored with life."
But Amos has chosen a different path, quietly "plugging away" at his golf. He has also just finished a gospel rock CD entitled Run To You, which is as far from his father's life on the run as one can get.