French police were yesterday hunting a notorious armed robber, nicknamed "The Writer", who staged a dramatic jailbreak 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.
Investigators were trying to determine how he obtained explosives and a firearm inside the prison, and who may have acted as accomplices. "A thorough investigation has begun. Obviously he had one or more accomplices," Fevre said. Police had yesterday detained for questioning a brother of Faid who had regularly visited him, he said.
"No potential lead can be ignored. The doors must be closed one after the other," he said.
French officials have warned that Faid is considered armed and "especially dangerous".
France has issued a Europe-wide warrant and called in Interpol for help amid fears he may have already fled across the border into Belgium, which is only a few kilometres from the prison.
Police said the breakout was planned with meticulous precision and authorities insisted there was no fault on the part of prison staff. The getaway car used in the escape was found burnt nearby, where Faid is believed to have switched to another vehicle.
Faid is known for co-authoring two books after a decade in jail for robbery, about his delinquent youth and rise as a criminal in Paris's impoverished suburbs.
He said his life of crime was inspired by American films such as Scarface and Heat. The latter's armoured car heist has been cited as the model for real life attacks. "Movies for me were like a user's guide for armed robbery," Faid said when his autobiography was released in 2010.
After insisting he had turned his back on crime, Faid was in 2010 suspected of being behind an armed robbery in which a policewoman was killed.
He 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 potentially faced 30 more years over the policewoman's death.