Catch me if you can

NICOLA BRENNAN-TUPARA
Last updated 05:00 08/01/2013
WANTED: Brandon Victor Pillay, also known as Ricardo Pisano.
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WANTED: Brandon Victor Pillay, also known as Ricardo Pisano.

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A Kiwi prison break tale has taken a chilling turn, reports Nicola Brennan-Tupara. 

New Zealand's most successful prison escaper has become one of the UK's most wanted criminals.

British police have offered a reward in their hunt for South African-born Brandon Victor Pillay, who walked out of a Waikato prison more than 11 years ago.

Pillay seems to be able to change his name, appearance and accent at will and police in his country of birth labelled him "the South African Artful Doger".

British police have taken the rare step of setting up a website targeting Pillay and have offered a $10,000 reward for the man who they believe is linked to a murder in Brighton, south of London.

The convicted extortionist remains New Zealand's most successful prison escaper after walking away from a Tongariro/Rangipo Prison work party in August 2001 and later skipping the country.

At the time of his escape, he was 24 and serving a 15-month sentence for extortion.

New Zealand police told the Times in 2011 that they'd received no credible information on Pillay's whereabouts for "some time".

But it has now transpired that he had been living in England for most of his time on the run under the name Ricardo Pisano, using nicknames Ree and Ricky, and is wanted for questioning over the murder of his onetime flatmate Michael Polding.

New Zealand police yesterday said they were continuing to liaise with British authorities over the matter and would provide assistance where they could to the British police.

However, they would not say if they would seek Pillay's extradition if he was caught by British police.

For only the second time in British police history, a website - michaelpoldingmurder.com - has been set up to help Sussex police gain information about Mr Polding's murder.

On it they offer a £5000 (NZ$9667) reward for anyone that can help locate Pillay or provide any information that would help the investigation.

Mr Polding was found in his Brighton flat with serious chest injuries in July last year.

It is understood that Mr Polding met Pillay in London a few years after his partner died in 2001, and the two men eventually decided to move in together.

But in July Mr Polding's family contacted police when they became concerned that they hadn't heard from him for a few months.

When police went to Mr Polding's flat to check on him, they found him dead.

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It is understood he had lain there for some weeks, dying in May from a blunt force trauma consistent with an assault.

The last known sighting of Pillay was at a shopping centre in Southampton on July 28 last year.

British police have called Pillay a man of "many guises" who often changed his name, appearance and accent.

British police working on the case are planning to head to South Africa this year to get more information about Pillay, who was born in Cape Town.

He is about 1.6m tall, of slim build and may have grown a beard.

Mr Polding, originally from Scotland, was described by his family as a "kind and caring person".

He moved to London in the 1970s, so he could live as an openly gay man, and to Brighton in 2011.

Detective Chief Inspector Nick May, the lead investigator in the case, has said he is "determined to get justice for Michael and his family and this case will remain open until we do so".

WANTED

Brandon Victor Pillay, also known as Ricardo Pisano Wanted in connection with the death of Scottish man Michael Polding in Brighton in July, 2012

Escaped from Tongariro/Rangipo Prison in 2001

Born in South Africa About 1.6m tall, of slim build, in his 30s

DESPERATE MEN SHOW INGENUITY

Brandon Victor Pillay might be New Zealand's most successful prison escaper - but he's not the most ingenious.

While Pillay simply walked away from a prison work party in August 2001, notorious escaper and drug baron Brian Curtis hacked through metals bars to make his escape.

Curtis, who was serving 18 years for drug trafficking, and fellow prisoner Michael Bullock got past the bars and then the perimeter fence of Paremoremo Prison in 1993. Bullock was caught in Wellington in 1999 but it was not until July 2001 that Curtis was recaptured in Manila, in the Philippines.

Aaron "Houdini" Forden is also one of the country's most notorious escapers. He has a history of escaping and in 2008 used ropes and bed linen to climb from a tower at Auckland's Mt Eden prison over a wall to freedom. However, he avoided capture for only three days.

In 2010, he escaped again - this time from the new Mt Eden Corrections Facility.

Another escaper, William Gordon Brough, spent almost seven years on the run after escaping from Wanganui Prison in August 2002, part-way through a four-year term for drug-related crimes.

But New Zealand's most infamous escaper would have to be George Wilder, who became a Kiwi folk hero after three breakouts in the 1960s.

- Waikato Times

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