French police were on a manhunt yesterday for a notorious armed robber who staged a dramatic prison break in northern France after briefly taking several guards hostage.
Lille prosecutor Frederic Fevre said about 100 investigators were involved in the hunt for Redoine Faid, known for brazen attacks on cash-in-transit vehicles, after he blasted his way out of a jail in the northern town of Sequedin on Saturday.
Faid, a 40-year-old who risked a heavy new sentence over the 2010 death of a policewoman, used explosives to blast through five prison doors and took hostage four prison guards, who were later released.
Investigators yesterday were trying to determine how Faid had managed to obtain explosives inside the prison and whether he had any accomplices.
“A thorough investigation has begun. Obviously he had one or more accomplices. The investigators will now determine how he was able to obtain explosives and a weapon,” Fevre said.
Police yesterday detained a brother who had regularly visited Faid in prison for questioning, Fevre said.
“No potential lead can be ignored. The doors must be closed one after the other,” he said, adding that the brother had been at the prison on Saturday to meet Faid, but had not been able to do so.
French officials have warned that Faid is considered armed and “especially dangerous.”
France has issued a Europe-wide arrest warrant and called in Interpol for assistance, amid fears he may have already fled across the border into neighboring Belgium.
Police have said the breakout was planned with meticulous precision and authorities have insisted there was no fault on the part of prison workers.
A getaway car used in the escape was found burned in Lille, where Faid is believed to have switched to a second vehicle. Of the four hostages he escaped with, one was released just outside the prison, another a few hundred meters away and the last two along the highway.
Faid is also known for co-authoring two books after a decade in prison for robbery, about his delinquent youth and rise as a criminal in Paris’ impoverished crime-ridden suburbs.
He said his life of crime was inspired by US films such as Scarface and Heat — where Robert De Niro’s armored car heist has been cited as the model for real life attacks in South Africa, Colombia and other countries.
“Movies for me were like a user’s guide for armed robbery,” he told the LCI news channel when his autobiography was released in 2010 relating his rise from petty thieving in his native northern Paris suburb to gangster stardom.
After his first robbery, Faid, of Algerian extraction, fled to Israel where he wore the Jewish skullcap and picked up Hebrew to blend in.
Despite vowing he had turned his back on crime Faid was in 2010 suspected of being the mastermind of an armed robbery in which a young policewoman was killed in a shootout.
Faid landed back in prison in 2011 for failing to comply with his parole conditions and was due to serve the remaining eight years of his original sentence. He faced 30 more years over the policewoman’s death.
“I wasn’t surprised when I heard about his escape although there were no signs that anything was in the works,” said Jean-Louis Pelletier, Faid’s lawyer.
He described his client as an extremely intelligent and well connected person.
The Sequedin prison is designed for 638 inmates and currently houses about 800 detainees with 220 guards, according to the Ufap-Unsa union.