Quebec police say they've captured fugitives who escaped by helicopter

Quebec police capture fugitives who escaped by helicopter

The three men were arrested at a Montreal residence around 1:30 a.m.

The Montreal apartment where three prison escapees who escaped from a Quebec City-area prison by helicopter two weeks ago were captured. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

The Montreal apartment where three prison escapees who escaped from a Quebec City-area prison by helicopter two weeks ago were captured. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

MONTREAL – The three men who police say escaped from a Quebec City-area jail by helicopter two weeks ago were captured in the early morning hours on Sunday in an upscale Montreal condo.

Quebec provincial police say investigators, accompanied by SWAT team members, arrested Yves Denis, 35, Denis Lefebvre, 53, and Serge Pomerleau, 49, at around 1:30 a.m. inside the residence.

Sgt. Audrey-Anne Bilodeau said the investigation was ongoing and further arrests were 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 escapees were facing charges including gangsterism and murder before the June 7 jailbreak.

They were to appear in a Quebec City court on Monday to face fresh charges, but police didn’t spell out what the new charges would be.

A woman who lives in the building where the arrests took place said she watched from her balcony as the men were escorted in handcuffs into a police van.

France, who gave only her first name, had recently returned from a tango class when she heard a commotion.

“I knew something important was happening,” she said.

“I saw a police car arrive, then another, and then another… And then I heard someone say, ‘No, it’s not a joke. We’ve got all three.'”

The condo was part of a ritzy new development in Old Montreal featuring a fountain courtyard, just steps from the historic waterfront.

By midday Sunday, police had left the scene and two maintenance workers were cleaning up the 10th-floor condo where the men were arrested.

The lock had been broken and the door kicked in, while inside the furniture was askew, with couch cushions seen scattered on the floor.

The residence featured a balcony with a perfect view of the city skyline.

Bilodeau said police gathered evidence from the residence that could be used in court.

The three men had been arrested under Operation Crayfish in 2010, which had dismantled a network of drug traffickers.

They were awaiting trial on charges that included gangsterism and murder when a helicopter plucked them from a courtyard of the Orsainville Detention Centre, in suburban Quebec City.

Interpol had recently added them to the red notice list, which placed them among the world’s most wanted fugitives.

The Quebec government has ordered an internal investigation into the jailbreak.

Shortly after the daring breakout it was revealed that a judge had granted the inmates looser restrictions the day before they escaped, including the possibility they no longer be obliged to wear handcuffs.

Public Security Minister Lise Theriault has said she doesn’t know why the judge agreed to the request.

Theriault, who is also deputy premier, said in an interview Sunday she was “relieved” the men had finally been caught.

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 centre and flew away. But they were quickly recaptured.

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