Helicopter pilot in French gangster’s prison break released


The pilot of a helicopter used in the Hollywood-style prison break of a notorious French gangster last year was freed without charge Wednesday, along with his step-daughter and another person, a judicial source said in the latest twist in a sensational case.

The trio were released without any charges laid against them at this stage, two days after being arrested, the source said.

Investigators had discovered that the young woman in her 30s had been writing letters to Redoine Faid, the source said.

Faid, 46, was recaptured north of Paris in October after three months on the run at times wearing as a disguise a burqa, a loose garment worn by some Muslim women which covers the entire face except the eyes.

His brazen escape took place on July 1 when two heavily armed accomplices used smoke bombs and angle grinders to break through doors and whisk him to a waiting helicopter at the prison in Reau, 50 kilometres (30 miles) southeast of Paris.

Police had wanted to shed light on the role of all involved, especially that of the pilot who up to now was seen as a victim, a hostage of Faid’s accomplices.

Two men posing as flight school students, who had already taken an introductory flight, were said at the time to have forced a helicopter instructor at gunpoint to fly them to the jail.

The pilot landed in the courtyard — the only part of the prison not fitted with anti-helicopter nets — prompting a heated debate in France about whether the country’s prisons are secure enough.

Faid had been serving a 25-year term over a botched 2010 heist in which a policewoman was killed, though he claims her death was accidental.

The career criminal with multiple convictions for armed robbery had escaped from prison once before, for six weeks in 2013.

He has cited movie baddies such as Tony Montana in “Scarface” as an inspiration and said he discovered his “calling” at the age of 12.


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