The French government pointed to possible security failings on Monday after a notorious gangster used a helicopter to stage his second brazen jailbreak of a crime career inspired by films such as “Scarface”.
The latest escape of Redoine Faid, who was serving a 25-year sentence for an armed robbery in which a policewoman was killed, has left French authorities red-faced.
Faid was sprung from a prison in Paris by two accomplices who used smoke bombs and angle grinders to break into the jail and whisk the fugitive to a waiting helicopter.
Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet told Europe 1 radio that she had sent a team of inspectors to the jail “to see whether the security measures were defective so that we can rectify them”.
She suggested that leaving Faid in the same prison for “a few months” had been a mistake.
“We must be careful not to leave the same people in the same places for too long when we’re dealing with this type of individual,” she said.
“The rotation probably needs to be more frequent,” she said.
Faid’s accomplices hijacked a helicopter from a flight school on Sunday morning and forced the terrified instructor to take them to the prison, where the aircraft hovered above the yard.
Two black-clad men armed with assault rifles then set off smoke bombs before using power tools to break into the prison’s visiting room, where Faid was talking to his brother.
The wardens, who were unarmed, fled and raised the alarm. But within 10 minutes Faid had made his escape. The helicopter was later found in a northeastern suburb of Paris about 60 kilometres (37 miles) from the prison.
The pilot, who had been beaten, was found in a state of shock.
The men then continued their getaway by car, changing vehicles along the way. The first car was found torched in a shopping mall carpark.
Belloubet said Sunday the gang probably used drones to stake out the prison.
The breakout comes five years after Faid blasted his way out of a prison in northern France using dynamite.
Faid has been behind bars since mid-2011 for breaking the terms of his parole over past convictions for bank robberies and brazen heists of cash-in-transit vehicles.
In his 2013 jailbreak, he briefly took four guards hostage with a pistol before escaping in a waiting getaway car. All the hostages were released unharmed.
He was recaptured six weeks later at a hotel on the outskirts of Paris.
Faid, who has a cult following in the tough multi-ethnic suburbs outside Paris where he grew up, has made several television appearances.
Police nicknamed him “The Author” for two books he co-wrote about his delinquent youth.
At a Paris film festival in April 2009, Faid approached Michael Mann, director of the 1995 gangster film “Heat” starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, telling him: “You were my technical adviser.”
He wrote that he had watched the film dozens of times to perfect his bank-robbing prowess.