'Fraudster' escapes jail in helicopter breakout

16th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

16 April 2007, BRUSSELS - A man due to be extradited to Spain for fraud staged a dramatic jailbreak in helicopter hijacked by two accomplices.

16 April 2007

BRUSSELS - A man due to be extradited to Spain for fraud staged a dramatic jailbreak in helicopter hijacked by two accomplices.

Two men forced the pilot to land in a prison courtyard on Sunday where they picked up the French prisoner, the BBC reported.

The accomplices paid for a helicopter ride at an airstrip near the eastern city of Sint-Truiden saying they were tourists from Marseilles in southern France, the pilot Eric Mathieu told Belgian television.

After takeoff, they produced a pistol and hand grenade, ordering Mathieu to fly to Lantin prison outside nearby Liege.

"They pointed a revolver at my forehead," Mathieu told RTBF television. "The prison yard was so small, at first I refused to land there, but they threatened to kill me, so I had to do it."

Mathieu said he touched down while about 200 prisoners were exercising in the yard. One climbed on board while his accomplices threw tear gas canisters into the crowd.

The helicopter then landed less than a kilometer (half a mile) from the prison, where the prisoner and his accomplices drove away in waiting car.

RTL-TVI identified the fugitive as Frenchman Eric Ferdinand, who was in pretrial detention on charges of fraud and theft.

RTBF said he had previously escaped from prisons in France and Spain.

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Subject: Spanish news

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