SEINE-ET-MARNE, France — The first time Redoine Faid escaped from prison five years ago, he blasted his way out with explosives.
He was caught, locked up and given more time behind bars. But on Sunday, he managed to escape again — by hitching a ride on a hijacked helicopter.
Faid, one of France’s most notorious criminals, was serving 25 years in prison for his role in a failed 2010 robbery that resulted in the death of French police officer Aurélie Fouquet. He was also given 10 years for his brazen 2013 prison escape, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.
Faid’s latest flight from prison came after two or three heavily armed men hijacked a helicopter and forced the pilot to fly to Faid’s prison in Seine-et-Marne, near Paris, the French Interior Ministry said. After picking Faid up Sunday, the armed men forced the pilot to fly them to the Val d’Oise region, northwest of Paris, before releasing the pilot unharmed and fleeing in an unidentified vehicle, the Interior Ministry said.
It was not immediately clear how Faid was able to get access to the hijacked helicopter.
But news of his second escape “devastated” the parents of the slain officer, the family’s attorney told CNN affiliate BFM-TV. Attorney Laurent-Frank Lienard said Fouquet’s parents are certain Faid “was involved at the highest level in the robbery attempt that led to Aurélie Fouquet’s death.”
Faid was convicted of masterminding the failed 2010 robbery. Two other men were sentenced for her murder. But Faid “always denied his involvement in the case,” his former lawyer Christian Saint-Palais said.
“He considered himself the victim of an injustice. He felt he was wrongly incarcerated,” Saint-Palais told the newspaper Le Parisien. “And for him, that could justify recovering his freedom if the opportunity arose.”
Police have now mobilized and are guarding borders to try to catch the fugitive, the interior ministry said.
A veteran prison escapee
Back in April 2013, Faid held five people — including four guards — at gunpoint at a detention center in the northern city of Lille, officials said. He then detonated explosives to destroy five doors, penitentiary union spokesman Etienne Dobrometz told CNN affiliate BFMTV. It was not clear how he got the gun and explosives.
Faid grew a beard and wore a wig while on the run. After an international manhunt that spanned dozens of countries, he was captured at a hotel east of Paris and locked up in a different prison.
While Faid’s escape Sunday via helicopter may seem shocking, it’s actually the latest in a long history of French inmates escaping into the sky.
One inmate, Pascal Payet, used a helicopter for three separate prison escapes, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. The Frenchman first used a helicopter to flee from a Luynes prison in 2001. Two years later, while still a fugitive, he helped inmates from the same prison escape by chopper. He was eventually caught, but then he escaped for the third time in 2007 using a helicopter hijacked by four men.
Payet and his accomplices fled, and the pilot was not harmed. Eventually, Payet was recaptured in Spain.
And back in the 1980s, the wife of another French inmate was so determined to get her husband out of prison that she took helicopter flight lessons just for the escape. Michel Vaujour, was serving a lengthy sentence for attempted murder and armed robbery. In May 1986, the Chicago Tribune reported, Michel Vaujour “forced his way onto the prison’s roof by wielding nectarines that were painted to look like grenades.” His wife, Nadine Vaujour, then picked him up in a helicopter and whisked him away to a football field, where they landed and drove away.
But their luck soon ran out. Nadine Vaujour was discovered and arrested in southwestern France. Michel was later shot in the head during a failed bank robbery, but survived.