Redoine Faid, 46, has brazenly escaped in a helicopter from Reau Prison in the South of France. He escaped with help from three associates who hijacked a helicopter, landed in the yard, and took off with Redoine inside.
The notorious felon had been serving a 25-year sentence for the murder of a 26-year-old police officer, who was killed during a botched robbery in 2010. Throughout the 1990s, police referred to Redoine as the “terror of Creil” due to his fierce reputation for ruthless bank heists and armoured van take-downs.
On Sunday three men in balaclavas and black tactical gear hijacked a chartered helicopter and forced the pilot to land in the Reau Prison yard.
"Two commandos entered the prison to look for Redoine Faid as the third man was staying with the helicopter instructor," explained French justice minister, Nicole Belloubet. "The two men used a grinding machine to open the door to the visiting room where Faid was, picked him up, and left."
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The break-out was timed to coincide with a visit Redoine was receiving from his brother, Brahim, who was detained immediately afterward. Brahim told BFM television. “I have nothing to do with the escape.”
Brahim’s lawyer, Keren Saffar, told reporters that Redoine had told him that someone was coming to take Redoine and that he was to stay where he was. “Brahim was stunned, he was shocked by the situation,” said his lawyer, Karen.
A member of the prison guard union told reporters that the helicopter landed in the only area of Reau Prison that did not have anti-helicopter protection.
A few months prior to the escape, prison staff had sighted drones flying over the prison, allegedly scoping the location. The head of France’s organised crime task force, Philippe Veroni, explained “[We] do not know if there is a link between the drones seen over the prison a few months back and the escape.”
Video footage from cell phones smuggled in by inmates show celebrations as Redoine scurries off to the helicopter, before it rises and disappears into the sky.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told RTL Radio Monday that french authorities have issued a heightened manhunt, with 1,900 police officers taking part in the operation.
Philippe Veroni wasn’t able to speculate on the duration of the operation. He told reporters, "there are getaways that can last even longer than the sentence itself."
The most alarming aspect of the escape is that it is not the first time Redoine has broken out. In 2013, Redoine got out of Sequeden Prison using explosives tucked into tissue boxes.
Redoine had smuggled a handgun into prison and held four guards hostage, using them as human shields. He'd then planted explosives on five prison doors, blowing his way out before leaving in a getaway car. He was captured a month later in a hotel in Pontault-Combault, on the east side of Paris.
And if Redoine’s escapades sound like stories from Hollywood blockbusters, and it’s because they are. Redoine infamously sharpened his burglary skills by obsessively watching heist films, specifically Heat, starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.
Redoine was so obsessed that when Michael Mann was in Paris promoting Public Enemies, Renoine approached the director to tell him: “You were my technical adviser.”
According to French paper Le Figaro, Renoine once wore a hockey mask during a robbery in 1997 as a "wink" to the getaway scene in Heat. And while robbing a jewellery store, he once referred to his gang members as "Mr. White" and "Mr. Pink," a reference to Reservoir Dogs.
Redoine was raised in a housing estate in Creil, Northern Paris, where he was inspired by stories about the French gangster Jacques Mesrine and gangster films like Scarface. His parents were Algerian immigrants.
Prior to his arrest in 2010, Redoine had spent years as an international fugitive between Switzerland and Israel, disguised as an Orthodox Jew while learning Hebrew in Israel.
He was eventually captured and served 10 years before being released on parole in 2010. During that time, Redoine made several public appearances to promote his autobiography, Braqueur, which was published the same year he'd been convicted for the murder of the policeman.
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This article originally appeared on VICE AU.