French murderer escapes from prison by helicopter

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An infamous criminal managed to escape from prison on the outskirts of Paris after an "armed commando" landed a helicopter in the complex's courtyard and whisked him away, France's Ministry of Justice said on Sunday.

Sunday's escape from the penitentiary in Reau in the French capital's southeastern suburbs took just minutes, the prison authority said, adding that no one had been injured.

Redoine Faid, probably the most notorious French gangster, has escaped jail for the 2nd time, this time in a helicopter.

But his greatest moment of notoriety came when he pulled off an astounding prison break that involved taking four guards as hostages and blasting several doors open with explosives, which quickly put him on the top of France's most-wanted list.

The 46-year-old is serving a 25-year sentence for a failed cash-transport van robbery in 2010 during which a police officer was killed.

Faid said his life of crime was inspired by films such as Scarface, and has co-authored two books about his time in gangs in the suburbs of Paris.

Faid's first escape from jail back in 2013 had been less dramatic, featuring the use of dynamites instead. It was then found burnt out by local police. The getaway helicopter was apparently discovered north of Paris, according to Reuters, and the men are still on the lam.

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Faid, along with two accomplices, was convicted for the murder of the policewoman.

Before that incident, Faid had been released from prison after convincing the parole board that he renounced his criminal past.

In 2009 he wrote a book about his experiences of growing up in Paris's crime-ridden suburbs and graduating into a life of crime.

France's most recognized gangster has said he modelled his infamous 1990s bank and armored auto heists on Hollywood crime thrillers like "Heat", once even personally thanking movie director Michael Mann for being his "technical advisor".

One of his prison supervisors said that Faid had never had any disputes with staff, "but we must always be wary". "Behind all his manners - he is very polite - he always hid his game", the supervisor said.

The courtyard where the helicopter landed was the only area not protected by anti-aircraft netting.