Notorious gangster Redoine Faid makes daring jailbreak in helicopter
France's most famous gangster yesterday made a spectacular jailbreak with the help of three heavily armed accomplices who landed in his jail in a helicopter and flew out with him on board.
Redoine Faid was being visited by his brother in Reau prison in the Paris region when the men burst into the room yesterday morning and extracted him.
A third man waited in the helicopter in the prison courtyard to watch over the pilot, a flying instructor whose aircraft the men hijacked in a nearby airfield and whom they forced to take part in the dramatic operation.
It was the second time Faid (46) had made a dramatic escape from prison.
In 2013, he became the country's most-wanted criminal after he blasted his way out of another prison using dynamite. He briefly took four wardens hostage before being recaptured six weeks later in a cheap hotel room.
Faid, who has said he was inspired by US films such as 'Scarface' and 'Heat', was serving 25 years in Reau prison for his part in a botched robbery of a cash-transport van near Paris in 2010, which he masterminded and in which a 26-year-old policewoman was killed.
She was shot as the gang fled and used Kalashnikov assault rifles to fire at police cars pursuing them along the busy A4 motorway. Two members of the gang are serving lengthy jail sentences for her murder.
The helicopter that extracted Faid yesterday flew right across the Paris region from the jail to the south-east of the capital, before being dumped not far from Charles de Gaulle airport to the north-east of the city.
The aircraft was then set alight, but was only partly damaged and the fire was extinguished when police found it a short time later.
Media reports said the pilot had been released and was not injured.
The prison courtyard it landed in was the only one not fitted with anti-helicopter nets as it is used by inmates solely when they are being admitted to or released from the jail.
Spectacular helicopter jailbreaks became a regular embarrassment for French penal authorities until the late 2000s, but have petered out since prisoner exercise yards in most jails were equipped with nets to prevent helicopters from landing.
After the helicopter that flew Faid out of jail was set on fire, its occupants fled by car in a black Renault Megane which they later dumped in the underground car park of a shopping centre near the airport. They switched to a white van that had the company name Enedis marked on the vehicle.
A major manhunt has been launched to track them down.
All police and gendarme units across Paris were put on alert and ordered to set up checkpoints that "take into account the dangerousness of the fugitive and his possible accomplices".
Faid's brother, who was visiting him at the jail, has been taken into custody for questioning.
A union representative at Reau told BFM television that "two men dressed in black, wearing balaclavas and police armbands" entered the prison to look for Faid and used a grinding machine to cut open the door that directly leads to the visiting room.
Faid has made several TV appearances and co- authored two books about his delinquent youth and rise as a criminal in the Paris suburbs.
In one, published in 2010, he claimed he had given up his life of crime. Before the 2010 robbery, he had served a decade behind bars until he convinced officials he regretted his past. (© Daily Telegraph, London)