Notorious thief flees French jail by helicopter

Redoine Faïd was being held in solitary confinement in Réau prison when the three men burst in on Sunday morning and extracted him, later dumping the helicopter and setting it alight before escaping in a auto, media reports said.

The 46-year-old career thief escaped Reau prison by helicopter in a daylight break, authorities said.

Faid's escape spurred a massive manhunt across greater Paris.

Faid's first escape from jail back in 2013 had been less dramatic, featuring the use of dynamites instead.

Armed with a pistol, he briefly took four guards hostage before escaping in a waiting getaway auto.

He staged that escape less than half an hour after arriving at a prison in northern France, and spent six weeks on the run.

Faid was sentenced to 25 years in the 2010 death of a young policewoman killed during a botched robbery.

At the same time, a helicopter landed in the prison courtyard, the only part of the complex not covered by anti-helicopter netting. He has said his lifestyle was inspired by Hollywood gangster films, including the Al Pacino thriller Scarface.

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Faid had already previously escaped from jail.

Officials later found the burnt and abandoned helicopter in Garges-les-Gonesse north of Paris.

In the 1990s, Faid led a criminal gang involved in the armed robbery of banks and armoured vans transporting cash.

Faid's accomplices had taken the flying instructor hostage at a small flying club in Fontenay-Trésigny, where he was waiting for a student, and ordered him to fly to the prison.

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.

That same year, he wrote a book about growing up in Paris' suburbs and leading a life of crime, which he claimed at the time to have put behind him.

Faid, who has a cult following in the tough immigrant suburbs outside Paris, where he grew up, has made several television appearances. "Take away the [lessons taught by] cinema and you would have 50 percent less crime", he once told Michael Mann, the director of Heat (1995), his favourite film.

One of Faid's most recent prison supervisors said he was never in conflict with guards, but that "we must always be wary".

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