French police have recaptured a cult leader jailed for child abuse after he escaped last week from a prison on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion in a helicopter.
Dozens of police clad in bullet-proof vests raided a building Wednesday in the Moufia neighbourhood of Saint-Denis, less than two kilometres (about one mile) from the prison where Juliano Verbard and two of his jailed followers escaped on a tourist helicopter hijacked by accomplices on April 27.
The official announcement of the recapture of Verbard, 27, came from Paris where secretary of state for overseas affairs Yves Jego hailed “the remarkable work of the police and gendarmes on the island of Reunion which allowed the recapture of Juliano Verbard.”
Five of Verbard’s accomplices, including three who hijacked the helicopter, were captured in the raid, which was broadcast live on television.
Verbard, the leader of a cult called the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, was serving a 15-year term for raping and sexually assaulting children.
His escape triggered a manhunt involving more than 1,800 police.
Despite similar escapes in France, the prison had not installed barriers to prevent helicopters from approaching the buildings and yard.