French police on Wednesday captured the country’s most-wanted man in a hotel outside Paris six weeks after he dynamited his way out of prison in a spectacular jailbreak.
Redoine Faid, a famed 41-year-old career thief who had been serving time for robbery and risked a heavy new sentence over the 2010 death of a policewoman, was arrested in the early hours at a hotel in Pontault-Combault, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of central Paris.
Police said he was arrested with a 29-year-old accomplice and that weapons were seized in his room and in his car, suggesting Faid may have been preparing another heist.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls hailed police for the “thorough and effective” investigation that led to Faid’s capture.
Faid will be brought before a judge on Wednesday afternoon, said Frederic Fevrea, the prosecutor of the northern city of Lille, not far from where he escaped.
Faid used explosives to blast his way out of the Sequedin penitentiary during his April 13 jailbreak and, armed with a pistol, briefly took four guards hostage before escaping in a waiting getaway car. All the hostages were released unharmed.
The penitentiary was just 15 kilometres (10 miles) from the Belgian border and a Europe-wide arrest warrant was issued as French authorities had believed he may have fled the country.
Valls told i-Tele that it appeared Faid had changed locations repeatedly during his time on the run and that he “benefited from the help of a certain number of accomplices”.
Clients at the hotel — a shabby one-storey building with some 50 rooms each costing 60 euros ($66) a day — reported hearing “a lot of noise” around 3:00 am (0100GMT) when police swooped in.
A woman working at the hotel, in an industrial area on the outskirts of Paris, said Faid’s accomplice had paid for the room in cash and that the two men had been there for several days.
The woman, who identified herself as Morgane, said Faid and his friend had requested that there be no housekeeping in the room on Sunday.
Christian Lothion, the head of the national judicial police charged with investigating and fighting serious crime, said the force had “tracked him down” on Tuesday evening.
French officials had warned that Faid, who grew up in tough immigrant suburbs outside Paris, was considered armed and “especially dangerous”.
He had been in prison since mid-2011 for breaking the terms of his parole over past convictions for bank robberies and brazen heists of cash-in-transit vehicles.
He is suspected of masterminding a May 2010 armed robbery that turned into a gunfight in which a policewoman, 26-year-old Aurelie Fouquet, was killed.
Faid had been released from a previous stint of a decade behind bars after convincing parole officials that he regretted his criminal past and was determined to start afresh.
He made several television appearances and co-authored two books about his delinquent youth and rise as a criminal in the Paris suburbs, saying his life of crime was inspired by American films such as “Scarface” and “Heat”.
Questions have been raised about how Faid could have escaped, with critics including prison unions noting that he had been moved to a lower-security facility at Sequedin and had been kept among the general prison population.