Police identify pilot in helicopter prison break


PARIS -- Police hunting for a prisoner who escaped in a helicopter flown bya mystery woman Tuesday identified the pilot as the fugitive's wife and said the 'Bonnie and Clyde' couple apparently planned the daring operation for three years.

The fugitive, convicted bank robber Michel Vaujour, 34, and his wife, Nadine, 35, vanished 'without a trace,' a police spokesman said.


He said the couple married in prison in 1979 and had a 5-year-old daughter, Betty, born in prison during one of Nadine Vaujour's three stints behind bars.

'They had a long time to plan for this so it's going to be difficult to find them,' the spokesman said. 'They have two or three years on us so we don't expect to catch up with them in three or four hours.'

The daring escape occurred Monday in broad daylight. Nadine Vaujour rented the helicopter at the School Saint-Cyr Airdrome outside Paris and flew it 19 miles to the Prison de la Sante where her husband and another inmate were waiting on the roof of their cell block.


As the helicopter hovered overhead, a machine-gun waving accomplice slid down a cable and put it over Vaujour, who was lifted up. The cable was let down again and the accomplice was raised. They abandoned the second inmate.

Nadine Vaujour flew the helicopter to a soccer field at a university housing complex 15 minutes after the escape. The Vaujours and their accomplice fled on foot. Police believe a car was waiting for them.

Authorities said the couple appeared to have plotted the escape since 1983, the year Nadine Vaujour began taking helicopter lessons under her maiden name in Annecy, France.

Michel Vaujour, in and out of prison since age 17, was serving an 18-year prison sentence he received in March 1985 for a 1981 armed bank robbery in Paris and a 1980 homicide attempt.

He was convicted of 10 other robberies and had escaped on three previous occasions. It took police two years to catch him after a 1979 escape.

Police said Nadine Vaujour had been imprisoned at least three times, for receiving stolen goods, swindling and attempted robbery. It was unclear whether she was convicted in any of the offenses.

She was last arrested in 1983 for her alleged role in an attack on an armored car in Tours. Two would-be robbers were killed and two security guards seriously wounded in the attempted theft. She was released for lack of proof.


One of her imprisonments was in the Fleury-Merogis prison near Paris. In February 1981, two inmates escaped by helicopter from a soccer field in the prison.

They were captured several months later and returned to prison. Their rescuer, who had hired the helicopter pilot and then ordered him to land at the prison, also was jailed.

Nadine Vaujour was identified through forms she filed to rent the helicopter at Air-Continent outside Paris. Manager Claude Roumet said she had been a steady client under the name Lena Rigo for five or six months, renting helicopters twice a month at $314 an hour.

Anyone with a pilot's license can rent a helicopter. Pilots do not have to file itineraris.

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