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Escaped French criminal Redoine Faid had small team of loyal accomplices

Sud-Francilien prison outside Paris when Redoine Faid had escaped in 2013

This picture taken on July 1, 2018 in Aulnay-sous-Bois, north of Paris shows a auto abandoned by French armed robber Redoine Faid at parking in a O'Parinor shopping mall after his escape onboard a helicopter from a prison in Reau.

Soon, Faid reportedly appeared in the courtyard, escorted by armed accomplices who had freed him from the prison visiting room, and boarded the aircraft, Reuters reported.

A huge manhunt has begun for Redoine Faid around the French capital after he broke out of Reau Prison. After an worldwide manhunt that spanned dozens of countries, he was captured at a hotel east of Paris and locked up in a different prison.

Redoine Faid was serving a 25-year sentence for murder, following a botched armed robbery that left a policewoman dead in 2010.

France's justice minister said several drones were spotted a few months ago flying over the prison and speculated that they were linked to Sunday's escape by Faid.

Sunday's daring escape is the second time Faid has broken out of prison. He received an eight-year prison sentence in 2011 - interrupted by the 2013 breakout.

Investigators are looking into whether Faid, who had been at the Reau prison since November, had inside help. Gunmen then took Faid from the visiting room and fled in the helicopter.

Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet said a helicopter landed in a courtyard, which was not covered by any nets.

The ministry added that the prosecutor's office had launched an investigation and a search operation had been put in place by police.

"Two commandos entered the prison to look for Redoine Faid as the third man was staying with the helicopter instructor", Belloubet said. Faid has said he modelled his infamous 1990s bank and armored vehicle heists on Hollywood crime thrillers like "Heat", and once even thanked movie director Michael Mann for being his "technical advisor".

Incredibly, it's not the first time Faid has been involved in a spectacular jailbreak. The helicopter was found burned out in a town north of Paris.

Faid has authored a book in which he detailed his experiences growing up in a crime-ridden suburb of Paris.

Prior to the 2013 escape, 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.

A warden who knew him from a prison in northern France told AFP he was "always very polite but never showed his hand".