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Pascal PAYET





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Armored car robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: November 20, 1997
Date of arrest: January 1999
Date of birth: July 7, 1963
Victim profile: A security guard
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Salon-de-Provence, Bouches-du-Rhône, France
Status: Sentenced to 30 years in prison in January 2005

Pascal Payet (born 7 July 1963) is a French criminal who has gained notoriety for his daring prison escapes using helicopters. He was initially sentenced to a 30 year jail term for a murder committed during the robbery of a security van in 1997.

Criminal career and escape attempts

Born in Montpellier, Payet spent his childhood in Lyon before settling in Marseille. In 1988 he was convicted of aggravated assault and again in 1993 for conspiracy. On November 20, 1997, he participated in an attack on a Banque de France armored car in Salon-de-Provence during which someone was killed. He was arrested along with Éric Alboreo in Paris in January 1999.

On October 12, 2001, he escaped from a prison in the village of Luynes in the French department of Bouches-du-Rhône on board a hijacked helicopter with Frédéric Impocco. On October 18, Impocco was captured and brought in for questioning in Paris. On April 14, 2003, Payet organized another helicopter escape from the Luynes prison, this time of Franck Perletto, Michel Valero, and Éric Alboreo, who had been arrested with him in 1999. They were caught three weeks later.

In January 2005, Payet was sentenced to 30 years in prison for murder in connection with the 1997 armored car hijacking in Salon-de-Provence. This sentence was upheld in May 2006 following an appeal by the cour d'assises of Var.

In December 2005, he published an open letter on his blog entitled "The Saga of My Transfers" (French: "L'épopée de mes transferts") in which he criticized the conditions of his imprisonment. Before the letter he had gone on a hunger strike at a prison in Metz in protest against having been transferred nine times in 30 months.

In January 2007, he confessed to organizing the 2003 escape and was sentenced to an additional seven years in prison, while his co-conspirators were each sentenced to three. He was also sentenced to another six years for his own escape in 2001.

By July 2007, Payet was one of the most closely surveilled prisoners in France and was never kept at the same prison for more than six months. He had been officially classified as a "détenu particulièrement surveillé," or a prisoner under especially high surveillance, and placed in solitary confinement.

Despite these measures, on July 14, 2007, taking advantage of Bastille Day celebrations, four masked men hijacked a helicopter from Cannes – Mandelieu Airport. They used it to free Payet from his solitary confinement in a prison in Grasse. The helicopter landed some time later at Brignoles, 38 kilometres north-east of Toulon, France on the Mediterranean coast. Payet and his accomplices then fled the scene and the pilot was released unharmed. Two days after his escape, a European arrest warrant was issued against him.

Payet was captured on September 21, 2007 in the town of Mataró, a suburb north of Barcelona in Spain. He was transferred to French custody on October 4, 2007 along with two accomplices who had been captured with him, Alain Armato and Farid Ouassou. He was then imprisoned in a location which has been kept secret for "security reasons." On June 25, 2008, the cour d'assises of the Alpes-Maritimes department sentenced him to 15 years in prison with no chance of early release for a series of armed robberies and assaults against police officers while he evaded custody.

On April 8, 2011, the cour d'assises of Bouches-du-Rhône sentenced him to an additional five years of prison for his 2007 escape. His three accomplices were sentenced to nine, seven and six years. Some other prisoners judged complicit in the escape were given lesser sentences.

Payet is married and has two children.


Killer Escapes by Helicopter From French Prison — Again

By Reuters

July 16, 2007

GRASSE, France, July 15 (Reuters) — The French police on Sunday were searching for a convicted killer who made a daring escape from Grasse prison in southeast France with the help of four masked men and a helicopter.

The well-planned breakout late Saturday took only five minutes and was the second time the killer, Pascal Payet, 43, had used a helicopter to escape from jail.

Maurice Barate, a security official at the prison, said the breakout was carried out by four masked men who hijacked a helicopter at nearby Cannes and took the pilot hostage.

They landed on the prison roof at the start of the night shift and used heavy machinery to break open two doors and enter the isolation ward where Mr. Payet was held.

“The operation took only five minutes,” Mr. Barate said. “The layout of the site did not allow the guards in the tower to shoot at the helicopter or the men.”

Mr. Payet, serving a 30-year prison sentence for killing a guard during the holdup of an armored car, was moved from one prison to another almost every three months because of his escape record. He escaped from Luynes prison by helicopter in 2001 and flew himself there to free three friends in 2003.

But prison staff members were not told about the hijacking of the helicopter on Saturday and so did not increase security.

Justice Minister Rachida Dati went to Grasse prison on Sunday, and an official said she ordered an investigation into the escape as well as a prison security audit.

Christophe Marques, secretary general of the prison staff union, said the breakout showed there was an increasing danger of attacks from outside prisons.

“We have to sit down with the minister and discuss the resources needed to counter such commando operations,” Mr. Marques said.


Pascal Payet


Pascal Payet



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