Notorious French gangster escapes from prison in a helicopter

Most Wanted French Thief's Epic Jailbreak Dramatic Helicopter Escape

A career criminal who was once France's most-wanted man has made a spectacular escape from his prison in the Paris region with the help of three heavily-armed accomplices who used a helicopter to fly him out of the jail.

The ministry said Redoine Faid's escape only took "a few minutes" on Sunday and no-one was injured or taken hostage.

It was the second daring escape by Redoine Faid, who once blasted his way out of a different prison with explosives hidden in tissue packs.

"Police forces are fully mobilized in order to find this person", Philippe told RTL.

Faid, 46, is an avid fan of caper films, the author of a confessional book about his life of crime - and a serial robber of banks and armored trucks.

In April, Faid was sentenced to 25 years for masterminding a botched armed robbery in 2010 in which French policewoman, Aurélie Fouquet was killed.

The brochure included no mention of a courtyard - large enough for a light utility helicopter such as, say, an Aerospatiale Alouette II - that would, notably, be the only part of the prison not covered by "anti-helicopter netting", according to the Associated Press. The first auto was found torched in a shopping mall carpark.

A huge manhunt has begun for Redoine Faid around the French capital after he broke out of Reau Prison.

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

They then managed to whisk him away in a helicopter parked in a nearby school yard, according to French media.

Although he was sentenced to 30 years in prison for these activities, he was released on parole after 10 years. All the hostages were released unharmed.

In 2009 he wrote a book about his experiences of growing up in Paris's crime-ridden suburbs and graduating into a life of crime.

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

He was re-arrested six weeks later.

The prison courtyard it landed in was the only one not fitted with anti-helicopter nets as it is used by inmates exclusively when they are being admitted to or released from the jail.

One of his prison supervisors said that Faid had never had any disputes with staff, "but we must always be wary". "Behind all his manners - he is very polite - he always hid his game".

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