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French armed robber who escaped prison in helicopter jailed again

A French gangster who made a spectacular escape from prison by helicopter has been sentenced to an extra 14 years in jail.

It was the second time Rédoine Faïd, a career criminal described as France’s most wanted man during his three months on the run, had broken out of prison.

As well as Faïd, five members of his family were among the 12 accused, 11 of whom were convicted, including his older brother Rachid, 65, who took the helicopter pilot hostage to stage the jailbreak.

Redoine Faid pictured in 2010.Redoine Faid pictured in 2010. Photograph: IBO/AP

The court heard that Faïd, a serial armed robber, had been described by police as a “gifted manipulator”. The jury was warned not to be swayed by his charisma and daring.

Faïd, 51, had already been given three sentences of 10 years, 28 years and 25 years, when he carried out his spectacular escape from Réau jail, on the Paris outskirts, on 1 July 2018. His accomplices let off smoke bombs to confuse the guards and used an angle grinder to cut through a door leading to the visiting room, where Faïd was being visited by another brother. Prosecutors described the escape, which happened in minutes, as a “family affair”.

Police finally traced Faïd to his home town of Creil, north of Paris, where he was reported to be disguised as a woman wearing a burqa.

In 2013 he had used explosives and a gun smuggled into another prison, in the north of France, leading to a 10-year sentence.

Faïd, the 10th of 11 children born to Algerian parents, carried out his first bank robbery in 1990 and later specialised in attacking armoured vans. He said he was inspired by French and American gangster films and portrayed himself as following a criminal code of honour, never hurting his victims.

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However, a 26-year-old police officer was shot dead during an attack on an armoured vehicle in 2010 that Faïd was said to have organised. His brother Fisal, who fled France after the shooting, was later convicted by an Algerian court of murdering the officer, Aurélie Fouquet.

The verdicts came in the early hours of Thursday morning after a chaotic seven-week trial that allowed Faïd to grandstand in the special secure court in Paris often used for terror trials.

Giving evidence, he said he had been motivated to escape by the thought of another 20 years in jail, which he described as like being in a “concrete coffin” and as “boring as hell”. He said he hatched his escape plan after realising the authorities’ “incredible lapse” of not installing anti-helicopter nets above the prison courtyard.