Notorious gangster makes dramatic escape from prison in a helicopter
A manhunt is currently underway to find one of Redoine Faid, France's most notorious gangsters, after he mounted a helicopter escape from Réau Prison, on the outskirts of Paris. He was being visited by his brother when several heavily-armed men landed the aircraft in a prison yard to bust him out. And this wasn't even his first escape from jail.
Throughout the 90s, Faid ran a gang involved in extortion and armed robbery in the French capital, before renouncing crime in a book about his experience growing up in the suburbs of Paris. However, he was later charged with a 2010 cash-transport van robbery and a jail escape in 2013.
Four prison wardens were taken hostage during the prior attempt, and dynamite was used to escape. Faid was on the run for six weeks before he was found in a hotel room and taken back into custody. The robbery in question was botched, ending in a police chase in which an officer was shot and killed. Faid was charged with both the robbery and the 2013 escape last year, earning himself a 25-year sentence.
Now, he has escaped once again - this time making a break for it in a helicopter.
The helicopter was hijacked from a local flight instructor, who was forced at gunpoint to take part in the mission. They landed in the only courtyard at Réau that doesn't have anti-aircraft nets. Once in the jail, they found Faid, while one gunman stayed with the helicopter, before they all escaped.
A union representative for the prison told news channel BFM that "two men dressed in black, wearing balaclavas and police armbands" broke into the visiting room, using a grinder. Faid's brother has now been taken into custody for questioning about his potential involvement.
France's Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet, who travelled to the Sud-Francilien prison in Réau on Sunday evening, called it "a spectacular escape", adding that "It was an extremely well-prepared commando unit that may have used drones to survey the area beforehand".
The helicopter was flown across the city before being abandoned near to the Charles de Gaulle Airport in the north east of the city. The vehicle was set ablaze to destroy any evidence, but it was soon found and the fire was put out. The helicopter pilot was released without injury, and the crew moved to a car, which was then abandoned in a shopping centre car park, where they transferred to a white van bearing the company name 'Enedis' on the side.
Police in the city are on high alert for the criminals, with checkpoints set up across the city.
One of Faid's most recent prison supervisors has stated he was never in conflict with guards, but that "we must always be wary".
"In the corner of his mind, he never lost the idea of escaping," the supervisor said. "Behind all his manners - he is very polite - he always hid his game."
Strangely enough, this isn't the first time a helicopter has been used for an inmate to escape prison. Three IRA members escaped Mountjoy Prison near Dublin in 1973, using this exact method. A pilot from a nearby airport had his aircraft hijacked by masked gunmen. You can read more about this escape and others in this list of daring jailbreaks and how they did it.