French gangster flees prison in spectacular helicopter escape

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A gangster who was previously France's most wanted man has escaped from his Paris prison in a helicopter.

Redoine Faid was helped by several heavily armed men who created a diversion at the prison entrance while the helicopter landed in the courtyard.

Two of the men reportedly burst into the visiting room while the third waited in the prison courtyard and watched over the helicopter pilot, a flying instructor whose chopper the men hijacked in a nearby airfield.

In that escape, Faid used explosives smuggled in to him to blast through five prison doors, took four guards hostage and used them as human shields while making his way to a getaway vehicle and fleeing. In 2013, he used explosives hidden in tissue packs to escape another facility. He briefly took four wardens hostage before being recaptured six weeks later in a cheap hotel room.

According to Agence France-Presse, Faid has been sentenced to serve 25 years "for masterminding a May 2010 botched armed robbery, in which a policewoman was killed".

Investigators trasnport an Alouette II helicopter allegedly abandoned by French prisoner Redoine Faid and suspected accomplices after his escape from the prison of Reau.

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They tried to burn it out to destroy the evidence, but it was found quickly by the police and put out.

He was arrested in 1998 following a global manhunt that tracked him to Switzerland and Israel.

Faid "led a gang involved in robbing banks and armored vans" in the 90s, the wire service adds, and was freed in 2009 after serving 10 years in prison. In 2001, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison for armed robbery.

Authorities launched a dragnet around the French capital on Sunday after a notorious criminal serving 25 years for murder used a helicopter Sunday to escape from a prison south of Paris.

Before that incident, Faid had been released from prison after convincing the parole board that he renounced his criminal past.

Police nicknamed him "The Author" for two books he co-wrote about his delinquent youth. "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. "Behind all his manners - he is very polite - he always hid his game", the supervisor said.

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