Quebec prison escapees recaptured

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 June, 2014, 9:07pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 June, 2014, 12:54am


A heavily armed SWAT team has raided an upscale Montreal condominium to capture the three men police say made a bold escape by helicopter from a jail in Quebec, Canada, two weeks ago.

The men, who had been facing murder and gangsterism charges, were found early on Sunday in a 10th-floor condo with a stunning view of the city in a ritzy new development in Old Montreal.

Yves Denis, 35, Denis Lefebvre, 53, and Serge Pomerleau, 49, were arrested and fresh charges related to their wescape when the appeared in a Quebec City court yesterday.

Police did not say what led them to the condo.

Officers left the scene after carrying out several containers and bags. The splintered door was ajar in its bent frame, while inside the furniture was askew, with a couch on its side and cushions scattered about.

Quebec police sergeant Audrey-Anne Bilodeau said investigators had gathered evidence from the condo that could be used in court. She said the investigation into the escape was ongoing and further arrests were likely.

"It could be a person who helped them escape from prison or a person who helped them hide from us," Bilodeau said.

The three men were originally arrested as part of Operation Crayfish in 2010, which dismantled a network of drug traffickers.

On June 7, a helicopter plucked the three men from a courtyard of the Orsainville Detention Centre in Quebec City, triggering an international manhunt. Interpol placed them on its list of the world's most wanted fugitives.

The Quebec government has ordered an internal investigation.

Questions have been raised about a decision by Quebec Superior Court Justice Louis Dionne, who had been asked to rule on a request by the three men to loosen the strict security conditions under which they were being held. The inmates had argued that the security conditions impeded preparations for their defence in court.

The judge's decision, which was dated March 24 and took effect shortly before the escape, was only recently made public. In his ruling, the judge gave the detainees access to a secured computer for their trial preparation. The ruling also stated they did not have to wear handcuffs during proceedings and would be allowed to go into the prison yard on weekday evenings, prison staff permitting.

Quebec Public Security Minister Lise Theriault said she did not know why the judge agreed to the request to loosen the security restrictions. She said at the weekend she was "relieved" the men had finally been caught. "We've been saying for two weeks the first priority is to catch the three men, so that's done," she said.

No-fly zones have now been imposed over selected prisons.