PARIS: A gangster who made a Hollywood-style helicopter prison break was arrested in northern France early Wednesday after three months on the run, at times hiding under a burqa to get around, officials and sources close to the inquiry said.
Notorious French robber Redoine Faid was captured during the night in the Oise region north of Paris along with his brother and a nephew, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told a press conference.
He said that a few days ago police saw a person wearing a burqa, a loose garment worn by some Muslim women which covers the entire face except the eyes, get into a car driven by a young woman.
"His way of walking suggested that it might be a man," Molins said.
On Tuesday night police spotted the person, again under a burqa, getting out of the car and entering the young woman's home in Creil.
Another person wearing a burqa entered the building shortly afterwards.
That prompted the police raid on the fourth-floor apartment which captured Faid, 46, along with the female driver.
"I saw around 100 police officers wearing balaclavas. I knew they were looking for Redoine," Alliou Diallo, who lives on the ground floor of the building, told AFP.
"The neighbourhood has always been quite calm. I never thought he could be here," he said.
A second nephew was arrested during an operation in nearby Villers-Saint-Paul, and two others at their homes in the Paris region.
Weapons and masks
The manhunt was launched after Faid's daring July 1 escape, in which two heavily armed accomplices used smoke bombs and angle grinders to break through doors and whisk him to a waiting helicopter.
Faid, a career criminal with multiple convictions for armed robbery, was sprung from the prison in Reau, 50 kilometres (30 miles) southeast of Paris.
Two men posing as flight school students, who had already taken an introductory flight, forced a helicopter instructor at gunpoint to fly them to the jail.
The terrified pilot landed in the courtyard -- the only part of the prison not fitted with anti-helicopter nets -- prompting a heated debate in France about whether the country's prisons are secure enough.
Faid had been serving a 25-year term over a botched 2010 heist in which a policewoman was killed, though he claims her death was accidental.
Around 100 specialist police were deployed to track down Faid, who narrowly avoided capture just weeks after his escape and had to abandon a car carrying explosives.
Faid had escaped from prison once before, for six weeks in 2013.
He has cited movie baddies such as Tony Montana in "Scarface" as an inspiration and said he discovered his "calling" at the age of 12.
In July investigators found a stash of guns, masks and a cement cutter in the Oise region, which they believed belonged to his gang.
Weapons were also seized in the raid on Tuesday night in the town of Creil.