Friday, 29 March 2013

The Great Escapes

In Canada, two prisoners made a daring escape from St-Jerome prison, near Montreal, by climbing ropes into a hovering helicopter ...... Police later said they arrested one of the prisoners and two other men. The second escapee was detained several hours later. And that was that .....

Helicopter prison breaks are always reported by the press ..... they are spectacular, they are loud, they are almost dashing (in a spy break derring do kinda way), and are not a guaranteed recipe for success. I say that because its actually hard to think of one that's totally succeeded if the aim is to escape and never end up back in prison ... I give you this random selection from the web.

The thwarted:

Many make the plan too complicated and find that the plan collapses or is uncovered. In the United Kingdom, in 2010, a murderer had plotted to escape by helicopter from HMP Parkhurst Prison, using helicopter flights at the Isle of Wight Festival as cover.The plot was uncovered before it could be implemented.

The Recaptured (sometimes, eventually):

Many are recaptured within hours, or rearrested in a few months at most (they just can't seem to stop returning to the same life and area where they carried out their crimes) .... I suspect that this proves that actually for 95% of criminals, crime really doesn't actually pay, and that only the big family gangs, or drug traffickers who have the sense to get out after a few big scores, have enough money to 'retire' from crime.


February 2009 saw a helicopter escape by two criminals including bank robber Vassilis Paleokostas and Albanian Alket Rizaj, who were both recaptured from a prior helicopter escape from the same Korydallos prison in August 2008..... the helicopter used in the second escape, was found by a highway in the northern Athens suburb of Kapandriti. The pilot was found bound and gagged, and had a hood over his head. He was later arrested as an accomplice 

Escape From Korydallos Prison In Greece

Bank robber Vassilis Paleokostas and Albanian contract killer Alket Rizaj had escaped from the same prison using the same helicopter method 20 months earlier. On that occasion the guards failed to react, because they thought it was a visit by prison inspectors. Paleokostas himself was recaptured in August 2008 .... the whole thing was masterminded by his brother Nikos Paleokostas, who was Greece's most wanted criminal and who himself had escaped from Korydallos prison in 1990 and was on the run for 16 yrs until recaptured in 2006.

Nikos Paleokostas - Criminal Escape Mastermind.


In 2007, Belgium's the "Jailbreak King", Nordin Benallal masterminded a spectacular prison escape using a helicopter to free him from Ittre prison.  Something of a prison escape specialist (although he might think about not getting caught so often),his previous escapes had seen him, run from a prison van, walk out of jail wearing a wig and sunglasses, and scale a prison wall with a rope ladder. He may have had inspiration from another helicopter escape by another prisoner from a Belgium prison in April of 2007.


In 2002 in Brazil, a hijacked helicopter landed inside the Jose Parada Neto Penitentiary in Guarulhos and lifted two prisoners to freedom.The helicopter landed in the central yard where prisoners were queuing for their lunch and two of the inmates scrambled aboard.The two men were serving sentences for murder and bank robbery.

France and Corsica

In 2001, Louis Carboni a drugs trafficker, was winched to freedom from the French jail at Borgo, in a dramatic escape by using a hijacked an emergency services helicopter. This was the second helicopter escape in France in 2001, when in March, three prisoners escaped from a jail in one of a series of Helicopter escape attempts in France that year.

In 2001 in Draguignan, in the south of France, three prisoners described as "dangerous" escaped via a helicopter after it was hijacked from a nearby airfield.The helicopter landed in a courtyard of the prison that had no protective netting overhead and they just climbed aboard.

Also in 2001 there was also a botched helicopter escape from the high-security Fresnes prison, south of Paris. Accomplices in a hijacked helicopter attempted to winch the two convicts from the jail's roof but the rope was too short.They gave the prisoners guns and they tried to shoot their way out before seizing hostages.

In 1999 five men escaped from the high-security Beaumettes prison in Marseilles .... one was killed by guards fire, with his body seen dangling on a rope hanging from the hijacked helicopter as it flew to its base. Three were recaptured soon afterwards following a gun battle with police. The last was hunted by 500 soldiers.It was the third time in eight years that a helicopter has been used in an escape bid at this prison.

Escape from Beaumettes Prison In France

In Argentina, a President, Fernando de la Rua, resigned in 2001 amid riots triggered by one of Argentina's most serious economic crises ... it wasn't deemed safe for him to drive away from the Presidential Palace,  and a helicopter dramatically took him from the roof of the palace. Even this Presidential flight from the Palace failed to ensure freedom for this Argentine President ......

President Fernando de la Rua Flees The Presidential Palace
...... he was arrested for bribery in office over the securing of legislation to remove workers rights. Now the 74-year-old former president is in court in Buenos Aires.

The other point of interest about this particular method of escape is that they cluster .... if one is fairly successful i.e. There is an attempt that gets the prisoner(s) away for longer than 48 hrs (the usual recapture time-scale), then there are further copycat attempts.

If however the first attempt at this type of escape fails, then they are rarely attempted again locally ..... it seems that nothing breeds success like success, and that copycatting is the greatest form of flattery, even in the criminal underworld.


  1. Thankyou for that interesting summary of aerial prison escapes.

    Staying out of prison seems to be, in itself, a difficult thing to do for a lot of criminals. They don't seem to be here to win but to "play the game"? Instead of spending weeks tunneling into a bank vault at great risk of capture before, during and after their crime, they might have earned a descent, risk free wage with Eurotunnel?

    1. The Old Lags I once knew, never retired with any money. They were just too lazy to hold down a job.


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