Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Apparent beheading of Steven Sotloff sees more calls for #IsisMediaBlackout

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Lesotho Coup: Exiled Prime Minister vows to return home after fleeing

Read more

DEBATE

Child Migrants In America: What to do about the wave of unaccompanied minors? (Part Two)

Read more

DEBATE

Child Migrants In America: What to do about the wave of unaccompanied minors?

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Abbas Araghchi, Iranian deputy foreign minister

Read more

THE OBSERVERS

More of this year's best Observers stories

Read more

FOCUS

When water becomes a weapon of war

Read more

ENCORE!

Eve Ensler: 'In The Body Of The World'

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Ed Husain, Author of 'The Islamist'

Read more

  • IS video purports to show beheading of second US journalist

    Read more

  • Video: Bodies ‘left behind’ as Ukraine forces flee rebel assault

    Read more

  • Obama orders 350 more US troops to Baghdad

    Read more

  • France vows crackdown on unemployment benefit ‘abusers’

    Read more

  • Frenchwoman reunited with daughter kidnapped by Syria-bent father

    Read more

  • Trust and 'bio-disaster units' needed to fight Ebola

    Read more

  • Could France sell the Mona Lisa to pay off its debts?

    Read more

  • Julie Gayet wins privacy case against French glossy Closer

    Read more

  • Germany blocks popular car pick-up service Uber

    Read more

  • Several UN peacekeepers killed in Mali explosion

    Read more

  • NATO plans new 'spearhead' force to counter Russia

    Read more

  • French clubs left behind as others spend big

    Read more

  • Britain drops arrest warrant for ill boy’s parents

    Read more

  • When water becomes a weapon of war

    Read more

  • Arab media strike back at IS Islamists – with cartoons

    Read more

  • US military targets Somalia's al Shabaab Islamist group

    Read more

  • Eve Ensler: 'In The Body Of The World'

    Read more

  • Boko Haram Islamists seize northeast Nigerian town

    Read more

France

Child sex attacker escapes from prison by helicopter

Latest update : 2009-04-27

The leader of a cult serving a 15-year jail term for sex attacks on children escaped in a helicopter from a prison on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion on Monday, along with two of his jailed followers.

AFP - A cult leader jailed for sex attacks on children escaped in a helicopter from a prison on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion on Monday, the regional administration said.
   
Juliano Verbard, who was serving a 15-year term for rapes and sex assaults on children, and two of his jailed followers were hauled on board a chopper hijacked by three accomplices, said senior official Jean-Francois Moniotte.
   
Verbard's flight was France's 11th helicopter jailbreak since 1986, and is bound to revive questions about security in its jails.
   
"All our search procedures have been put into action to find them," said Moniotte, who is chief of staff to Reunion's prefect, the central government's representative and police chief on the island.
   
The helicopter landed on waste ground a short distance from the jail and the gang escaped in a van that had been waiting for them, he told AFP. The two crew members were unhurt and are assisting police.
   
Earlier, the hijackers had boarded the chopper pretending to be tourists, before seizing control and directing the pilots to Domenjod prison, where it landed in the exercise yard and took on the escapees.
   
"One of them put a gun to my temple while another threatened to set fire to a bottle of petrol he had in his hand with a cigarette lighter," the pilot told local broadcaster Antenne Reunion.
   
Verbard, 27, was the guru of the self-styled "Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary", a cult with no connection to mainstream Catholic institutions, on the island of Reunion, a French territory in the Indian Ocean.
   
He escaped along with two followers, the father and son duo Alexin Jismy and Fabrice Michel, who were jailed for their part in the kidnap of a boy, 12-year-old Alexandre, whom Verbard had decided would be his successor.
   
He was jailed in February 2008 for attacks on children aged nine and 13, whose mother was the sect's treasurer. He was also convicted of Alexandre's kidnap and is under investigation in another alleged paedophile case.
   
At the time of his trial, psychiatrist Gerard Toulfayan described Verbard as "a extremely powerful manipulator with great intelligence."
   
Verbard launched his cult in 2002 after convincing scores of followers that the Virgin Mary appeared to him every month. Adepts paid 20 euros (26 dollars) each for the honour of taking part in an appearance ceremony.
   
According to Verbard, Mary called him her "Lily of Love".
   
Authorities attempted to dismantle the sect after it was implicated in the kidnap of 12-year-old Alexandre, a boy that Verbard claimed was destined to become his successor at the head of the group.
   
Spectacular helicopter escapes have become a regular embarrassment for French penal authorities and, unlike Reunion's Domenjod, jails in mainland France now often have protective nets over their exercise yards.
   
Since 1986, there had been 10 escapes from French jails in helicopters, most recently in July 2007 when gangster and murderer Pascal Payet managed to get out of Grasse prison in a hijacked chopper.
   
It was Payet's second successful helicopter jailbreak, and he was convicted of organising a third in which some of his accomplices also escaped.
 

Date created : 2009-04-27

COMMENT(S)