Drones seen buzzing above a French prison months ago may have been on a reconnaissance mission ahead of the helicopter escape of a notorious French criminal — his second breakout in five years.
France’s justice minister said Monday that several drones were spotted flying over Reau Prison south of Paris a few months ago. He speculated they were linked to the escape Sunday of career criminal and murder convict Redoine Faid.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said 2,900 officers are now looking for Faid in a massive manhunt.
“Police forces are fully mobilized in order to find this person,” Philippe told RTL. “We know he is dangerous. We know he is a determined person and I want to find him as soon as possible.”
Faid’s brother was in custody on Monday.
Faïd, 46, speaks Hebrew and wrote in his 2010 biography about how dressing like a very religious Jew was the perfect way to evade police, the Evening Standard UK reported.
“Faïd won’t be able to stay on the run in Europe, but Israel may prove a lot easier,” an investigating source in Paris told the paper.
The career criminal, who is French and Algerian, once claimed he learned firearm skills from an IDF soldier.
Detectives also believe he has ties to criminal groups in Israel.
“He has very strong links with Israeli groups, and is a past master at disguising himself as an Orthodox Jew. All those involved in the hunt have been alerted to this possibility,” a source told Mirror UK.
When he was caught after making his first prison escape in 2013, Interpol said he’s been trying to obtain forged documents so he could go to Tel Aviv.
Faid is an avid fan of caper films, the author of a confessional book about his life of crime and a serial robber of banks and armored trucks.
He was serving 25 years for an attempted armed robbery in 2010 that led to a high-speed chase and a shootout with police that killed 26-year-old officer Aurelie Fouquet. Faid had already escaped prison once before, in 2013, by blasting his way out with explosives that were hidden in tissue packs.
“Redoine Faid is someone who has freedom in his DNA. He also has lawbreaking in his DNA,” Laurent-Franck Lienard, the lawyer for Fouquet’s family, told RTL radio on Monday. “If there was one inmate to keep a close eye on, it was him.”
French media reported that three men took the helicopter pilot hostage at a flying club in the Paris region.
The armed men set off smoke canisters to hide from prison video cameras and the helicopter touched down in the only part of the complex that was not covered by anti-helicopter netting, said a member of the prison guards’ union, Loic Delbroc.
The helicopter pilot was later released with no injuries. The helicopter was found burned out in a town north of Paris.
A wanted notice for Faid said he drove off in a utility truck.
Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet said authorities were urgently looking for gaps in the security system that allowed the brazen breakout. She said authorities were particularly focused on several drones that flew over the prison months ago.
Faid was a fan of Robert De Niro, Michael Mann and Steve McQueen, according to Frederic Ploquin, who met him several times while researching a book about the French underworld.
“He always tried to bring to reality all these things that he learned in the movies,” Ploquin told BFM television. “This escape is very much in his style.”