Police recapture gangster months after chopper escape from French jail

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A gangster who went on the run following a spectacular prison escape over the summer has been recaptured in France. 

Redoine Faid, whom police had tracked since early July, after armed gunmen sprung him from jail to escape in a helicopter, was arrested in the town of Creil, north of Paris. 

His brother Rachid and two other family members were also detained, a police source said.

Faid, who once said his life was inspired by films like ‘Scarface’, was serving a 25-year sentence at a prison south of the French capital for an armed robbery that went wrong and led to the death of a policewoman in 2010.

In July, dramatic footage emerged of the moment he pulled off a brazen jailbreak by fleeing from a prison near Paris in a hijacked helicopter.  

The 46-year-old who was once France’s most wanted man broke out of the penitentiary in Reau in the capital’s southeastern suburbs, with the help of two accomplices in an operation lasting just ten minutes.

They used smoke bombs and angle grinders to overcome wardens in the facility’s visiting room where Faid was talking to a brother.

In video captured inside the jail, inmates could be heard cheering as guards sprinted through the prison grounds and a helicopter hovered overhead.

A huge manhunt, involving nearly 3,000 police officers was launched across France. French Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet said the commandos most likely ‘used drones to survey the location’ beforehand.

It was the second time Faid had pulled off a spectacular jailbreak – in 2013, he blasted his way out of a prison in northern France using dynamite. He was recaptured six weeks later. 

The helicopter – hijacked from a terrified flight instructor – landed in the prison yard.

Guards did not open fire, fearing the aircraft would crash into prison buildings and because of the civilian pilot.

The two black-clad men armed with assault rifles set off smoke bombs before breaking their way into the prison’s visitation room using power tools.

At the time, sources said there were three accomplices. The wardens, who were unarmed, fled to safety and raised the alarm.

The accomplices went into the visitation room, reportedly armed with Kalashnikov rifles, and demanded Faid’s release, BFM-TV reported.

A union representative told local media that the men were ‘dressed in black and hooded’ while wearing police armbands.

The helicopter was later found in Garges-lès-Gonesse, a northeastern suburb of Paris about 37 miles from the prison.

A police source said the helicopter pilot was a flight instructor waiting for a student when he was seized by Faid’s accomplices. He was forced to fly before being later freed in a state of shock.

The men apparently went on to use a car that was later found torched in a shopping mall carpark, police said. 

At the time, detectives feared Faid may attempt to disguise himself as an Orthodox Jew and head to Israel where he had often expressed his wish to settle.

He speaks Hebrew and – in an autobiography published in 2010 – told how disguising himself as an ‘ultra-Orthodox Jew’ was a perfect way of evading police.

Faid said he had learnt firearms skills off an Israeli Defense Force soldier, and wanted to settle in the Middle East country.

It has become an increasingly popular destination for French criminals running away from justice and – following an escape in 2013 – Interpol was alerted that Faid was trying to get hold of forged documents to get him to Tel Aviv. 

The escape came after an appeals court in April sentenced Faid to 25 years for masterminding a botched armed robbery in 2010 in which a policewoman was killed.

Faid had been behind bars since mid-2011 for breaking the terms of his parole over past convictions for bank robberies and brazen heists of cash-in-transit vehicles.

In his 2013 jailbreak, he briefly took four guards hostage with a pistol before escaping in a waiting getaway car. All the hostages were released unharmed.

Faid was recaptured six weeks later at a hotel in an industrial area on the outskirts of Paris.

A woman working at the hotel told AFP at the time that Faid’s accomplice had paid for the room in cash and that the two men had been there for several days.

Faid had earlier been released from a 10-year stint behind bars after convincing parole officers that he regretted his criminal past and was determined to start afresh.

Police nicknamed him ‘The Author’ for two books he co-wrote about his delinquent youth.

Faid, who has a cult following in the tough immigrant suburbs outside Paris where he grew up, has made several television appearances.

At a Paris film festival in April 2009, Faid approached Michael Mann, director of the 1995 gangster film ‘Heat’ starring Al Pacino and Robert Niro, telling him: ‘You were my technical adviser.’

He wrote that he had watched the film dozens of times to perfect his bank-robbing prowess.

One of his prison supervisors said that Faid had never had any conflict with staff, ‘but we must always be wary’.

‘In the corner of his mind, he never lost the idea of escaping. Behind all his manners – he is very polite – he always hid his game,’ the supervisor said.

Delabroye, the prison union rep, said the yard where the helicopter landed is the only area not equipped with anti-aircraft netting because inmates never use it – ‘except to leave the prison’.

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