France’s most wanted criminal, a glib, flamboyant bank robber who escaped from prison by taking four guards hostages and blowing up five armoured doors, has been recaptured after six weeks on the run.
Redoine Faïd was not in Israel or Switzerland, where he had taken refuge in previous occasions when he was a fugitive. Instead, he was with an accomplice in a motel outside Paris.
“He is a dangerous man. He is the most wanted man in France,” prosecutor Frédéric Fèvre told reporters, explaining that up to 80 officers took part in the operation.
“We had to act fast because Redoine Faïd, knowing he’s wanted by police, changed his sleeping arrangement frequently.”
Interior Minister Manuel Valls confirmed in a statement that police captured the pair at 3 a.m. Wednesday, in Pontaut-Combault, 30 kilometres east of the capital, where they had been hiding for several days.
"In hailing this great police success, the minister has a thought for the family and colleagues of Aurélie Fouquet," the communiqué said, alluding to a police officer killed by a burst from an AK-47 rifle, in a shootout that followed a botched robbery Mr. Faïd is alleged to have masterminded.
Motel patrons who witnessed the arrest told French media that they heard loud noises and saw dozens of heavily armed tactical officers with black balaclavas over their faces.
After the 41-year-old Mr. Faïd and his companion were taken away, police found in their room several handguns and disguises, such as wigs, glasses and false beards, suggesting that the fugitive was running out of money and plotting another heist.
“When you are on the run, you need losts of money and you need to end contact with your loved ones. Neither of those conditions were met,” Mr. Fèvre said, suggesting that the pair were retraced because they plotted a heist and reached out to their relatives.
Mr. Faïd had an unusually high profile in France because, for a time, he claimed to have been rehabilitated, co-authoring a book and hitting the talk-show circuit to portray himself as part of a new generation of criminals who emerged from immigrant suburbs and learned their tradecraft from the movies.
One of the ten children of an Algerian-born factory worker, he graduated from stealing a shopping cart full of candies at age 6 to specializing in robbing banks and armoured cars. He claimed that his inspiration were Hollywood blockbusters such as Michael Mann's Heat, which he watched many times to study how a fictitious crew led by Robert De Niro operated.
While serving an 18-year sentence, he realized the "moral prejudice" he had committed. Granted parole in 2009, he went about promoting a book about himself.
The authorities, however, allege that it was just an act and that during that time he was still involved in other heists. He was re-arrested in June 2011 on suspicions that he was behind an attempted robbery the previous year where Ms. Fouquet was killed.
Last April, Mr. Faïd was in pre-trial custody in Sequedin in northern France. On Saturday morning, while waiting for his brother in the prison’s visiting area, he pulled out a gun, took guards hostages and used explosives to blast his way out. Once outside, he released the hostages and drove off in a getaway car, which was later found abandoned and burned.
During his stint promoting his book, Mr. Faïd had candidly said that “you become addicted to heists. You look for the adrenalin it gives you, your body needs it like a drug."