The French gangster who escaped from jail on a hijacked helicopter has finally been captured

Third time’s the charm?
Third time’s the charm?
Image: Reuters / Philippe Wojazer
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It was a like a scene out of Prison Break. Rédoine Faïd, a French gangster who had been serving a 25-year sentence, escaped from the Réau prison in northern France in a hijacked helicopter. Now, after three months on the run, French police say they have finally caught him.

Faïd was in prison for masterminding a botched robbery in 2010, in which a policewoman was killed. In July 2018, he was speaking with his brother in the jail’s visitation room when fellow inmates broke in with smoke bombs. Meanwhile, three heavily armed accomplices had hijacked a helicopter at gunpoint from a terrified flight instructor and ordered him to land it in the prison courtyard. The courtyard was the only area of the prison that wasn’t covered in anti-aircraft netting—and so the group was quickly able to escape. The entire operation took less than 10 minutes. Inmates inside the prison recorded the escape, which became legendary in France.

This wasn’t the first time Faïd managed to pull off a spectacular escape. In 2013, he took four wardens hostage and blasted his way out of a different prison in northern France using dynamite. That made him the country’s most wanted fugitive, and one that French authorities have spent countless resources and hours chasing since the late 1990s, when he was first sentenced to 18 years in prison for armed robbery.

Faïd is known as something of a book and movie buff: Police nicknamed him “The Writer” because he co-wrote two books about his delinquent youth, growing up in a poor suburb of Paris. He has said he is a fan of gangster films, which he credits with teaching him how to pull off raids from the age of 12, especially Tony Montana from Scarface. He is a fan of Michael Mann’s crime thrillers (including Miami Vice and Heat), and once approached Mann at a Paris film festival and told him: “You were my technical adviser.”

He was captured earlier today (Oct. 3) in the town of Creil, along with three other men, including his brother. French justice minister Nicole Belloubet told Europe 1 radio, “We’re going to put him in a high-security facility where he will be watched extremely closely.”