Four days after a spectacular jailbreak, in which for the second time in 15 months a helicopter was used to flee from a provincial jail, the Quebec government is launching an internal investigation into how these two airborne escapes were possible.
Numerous questions remained unanswered as police continue a massive search for the three potentially dangerous fugitives, who escaped from Quebec City’s Orsainville Detention Centre on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the international police agency Interpol issued an alert for the three on Wednesday, saying it was complying with a Canadian request and issuing a notice to its 190 member countries “to assist police in identifying, locating and arresting the fugitives.”
The three escaped prisoners, Yves Denis, 35, Denis Lefebvre, 53, and Serge Pomerleau, 49, have been linked to the Hells Angels biker gang. They murder charges, as well as charges related to drugs and gangsterism.
“The three men should be considered dangerous and members of the public are not advised to approach them, but instead report any sightings to their local or national police,” Interpol said.
The fact that the escape plan was carried out with apparent ease has become an embarrassment for the Quebec government, which is being asked to explain why authorities did nothing to prevent it after a similar jailbreak a little more than a year ago.
“Two is two times too many. I don’t accept having helicopter jailbreaks from Quebec prisons,” a frustrated Premier Philippe Couillard said in the National Assembly. “It is clear to me is that the co-ordination of actions and the coherence of information given to the government was unsatisfactory.”
Mr. Couillard indicated that there were several contradictions in the information flowing from the police, prison authorities and government ministries and that an internal investigation was needed to explain the lack of co-ordination.
At the heart of the internal investigation will be an examination of why, according to news reports, prison authorities ignored warnings from the Sûreté du Québec, which had detailed information in March that the three were planning a prison break.
The internal probe will also look into the sequence of events that resulted in the lowering of the security status of the three prisoners. According to several news reports, they were given permission to move freely in the prison courtyard, where the helicopter landed and flew them to their freedom.
“Who was responsible for lowering the security status of the three prisoners?” Parti Québécois Leader Stéphane Bédard demanded to know in the National Assembly. “If the security level had been maintained, these individuals would not have escaped.”
“It is part of what needs to be looked at, but it isn’t the only thing,” Mr. Couillard responded. “The actions as well as the co-ordination of those actions of all those involved needs to be examined.”
The Premier suggested that the person responsible for heading up the internal inquiry will be appointed soon and that a report covering the two helicopter jailbreaks would be completed within the coming months.
“It won’t take six months to complete the inquiry. It can be done quite rapidly,” he said.
The first helicopter jailbreak occurred in March, 2013, when two inmates fled from the St-Jérôme provincial detention centre but were captured within a few hours. Saturday’s jailbreak appeared to be more carefully planned.