SWAT team captures three Quebec helicopter escapees
MONTREAL — A heavily-armed SWAT team raided an upscale Montreal condominium early Sunday to capture the three men police say made a bold escape by helicopter from a Quebec jail two weeks ago.
The men, who were facing murder and gangsterism charges before the jailbreak, were found in a posh 10th-floor condo with a stunning view of the city in a ritzy new development in Old Montreal, just steps from the historic waterfront.
Yves Denis, 35, Denis Lefebvre, 53, and Serge Pomerleau, 49, were arrested after police broke into the residence around 1:30 a.m., Quebec provincial police said. They are due in court in Quebec City on Monday to face fresh charges, but police did not spell out what the new accusations would be.
Police did not divulge details about what led them to the condo.
By midday Sunday, police had left the scene after carrying out several containers and bags. Two maintenance workers were cleaning up the home where the men were arrested.
The splintered door was ajar in its bent frame, while inside the furniture was askew, with a couch on its side and cushions scattered about. Mattresses, blankets and pillows were on the floor.
Quebec police Sgt. Audrey-Anne Bilodeau said investigators had gathered evidence from the condo that could be used in court. She said the investigation into the June 7 escape is ongoing and further arrests are likely.
“It could be a person who helped them escape from prison or a person who helped them hide from us,” Bilodeau said.
The three men were originally arrested as part of Operation Crayfish in 2010, which dismantled a network of drug traffickers.
On June 7, police said a helicopter plucked the three men from a courtyard of the Orsainville Detention Centre in suburban Quebec City, triggering an international manhunt. Interpol placed them on its list of the world’s most wanted fugitives.
The Quebec government has ordered an internal investigation into the jailbreak.
Questions have been raised about a decision by Quebec Superior Court Justice Louis Dionne who had been asked to rule on a request by the three men to loosen the strict security conditions under which they were being held. The inmates had argued that the security conditions impeded preparations for their defense in court.
The judge’s decision, which was dated March 24 and took effect shortly before the escape, was only recently made public. In his ruling, the judge gave the detainees access to a secured computer for their trial preparation. The ruling also stated they didn’t have to wear handcuffs during proceedings and would be allowed to go into the prison yard on weekday evenings, prison staff permitting.
Quebec Public Security Minister Lise Theriault has said she doesn’t know why the judge agreed to the request to loosen the security restrictions.
The administrative probe will also examine a similar escape last year.
In March 2013, two inmates grabbed onto a rope dropped from a helicopter at the St-Jerome detention center and flew away, but they were quickly recaptured.
No-fly zones have now been imposed over select prisons in Quebec, following a request by the provincial government.
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