PARIS (Reuters) - A famous gangster who escaped Hollywood-style from a French jail by helicopter was captured on Wednesday after a three-month hunt that led police a tower-block flat in an area where the man known as the “jailbreak king” grew up.
Redoine Faid, who has said his life of crime was inspired by blockbusters such as “Scarface” and “Reservoir Dogs,” escaped in July from a high-security prison where he was serving 25 years for a heist in which a police officer was killed.
His demise after three months on the run followed phone taps and monitoring of a woman who, prosecutor Francois Molins told a news conference, transported people believed to include Faid to a flat in burqas, a head-to-toe, face-concealing garb commonly worn by women in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.
He was arrested as he slept at an apartment in Creil, an hour’s drive north of Paris and not much further from the jail he escaped from south of the French capital in early July.
About 50 officers, some of them elite troops, took part in a pre-dawn Wednesday raid in which they also arrested a brother of Faid, two other men and a woman, among seven arrested in all, police sources said.
Burqas, wigs and guns were found at the premises, one of the weapons a handgun within arm’s reach of the sleeping Faid and a second one that looked like an Uzi submachine gun, Molins said.
Video footage from the scene of the arrests, obtained by Reuters, showed the inside of a humdrum fourth-floor apartment after a police raid, at around 4.20 a.m. local time (0220 GMT), early on Wednesday.
Faid, 46, became a notorious semi-celebrity after penning a tell-all book about his colourful life, describing how he was born into crime in high-rise housing estates of the kind that sprang up around Paris in the 1960s and 1970s.
The book came out in 2010, shortly after his release from jail for a previous hold-up conviction. Within months he was arrested again over an attack on a cash-transport truck that lead to the death of a young police officer.
Faid’s notoriety made him almost a household name when he subsequently took four prison wardens hostage and dynamited his way out of a jail in northern France in 2013. He spent six weeks on the run before he was tracked down and put back behind bars.
Faid had spoken in the past of having spent years on the run in Switzerland and Israel, where he claimed to have disguised himself as an Orthodox Jew and learnt Hebrew.
His latest break-out, in which armed men landed in a hijacked helicopter in a prison courtyard to free him from an adjacent visitor room and then fly him out, prompted a political debate over security in France, where wardens went on strike last year over safety standards.
Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Writing by Brian Love; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Richard Balmforth and Lisa Shumaker