French gangster flees prison in spectacular helicopter escape

Notorious French career thief Redoine Faid escaped from the jail in Reau with three accomplices sources said

A notorious career thief who was once France's most-wanted man pulled off a daring jailbreak on Sunday, fleeing a prison near Paris by helicopter in a commando-style operation.

Faid, who has said he was inspired by U.S. 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.

The 46-year-old gangster escaped Seine-et-Marne prison by helicopter in a daylight break.

The helicopter was found burned in the town of Garges-les-Gonesse, in the northern suburbs of Paris.

This is the second time he had escaped from a French prison, after he used explosives to blast his way out of jail on a previous occasion before recapture. Faid's brother has been taken into custody for questioning.

Belloubet said police had launched a manhunt and described Faid as risky. It has been reported that the helicopter pilot was released without injury.

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Faid's accomplices hijacked a helicopter from a flight school on Sunday morning and forced the terrified instructor to take them to the prison, where the aircraft hovered above the yard.

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 deboarded the helicopter and got into a vehicle, which was later found burned out at a shopping centre auto park in a Paris suburb.

Notorious French criminal Redoine Faid poses prior to an interview with French all-news TV channel, LCI, as he was promoting his book, in Boulogne-Billancourt, outside Paris, France, Nov. 22, 2010.

In the 1990s, he was co-leader of a gang engaged in jewel theft, armed robbery and extortion in the Paris area.

Before the 2010 robbery, he had served a decade behind bars until he convinced officials he regretted his past. He wrote a book in 2010 saying he had given up a life of crime.

But he was arrested in 2011 on suspicion of masterminding a robbery that resulted in the death of a police officer. Faid and his accomplices are believed to have ditched the airplane and escaped by vehicle.

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