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Airport liaising with Brest over helicopter mystery

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JERSEY air-traffic controllers are now liaising with their counterparts in the French city of Brest to find out more about a mystery helicopter which was travelling across the Island in the early hours of Tuesday.

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Dozens of people were left scratching their heads after hearing the chopper shortly after midnight.

Eyewitnesses said the helicopter was large and flew at a low altitude over Five Oaks, Trinity, St Clement and Grouville.

Some believed it to be a French naval helicopter, however, Marine Nationale media relations told the JEP that while there had been a search-and-rescue operation to find a kite-surfer on Monday evening, that operation finished at 10 pm French time.

The French navy sent an NH90 – a medium-sized, twin-engine military helicopter – out of Jobourg in response to that alert along with a second helicopter and four search boats but the search was unsuccessful. A spokesman said they had no record of anything after that over Jersey.

Local aircraft enthusiasts who spotted the helicopter believed it to be French military, however.

One reader commented on the JEP’s website that they had tracked it using an online flight data website but that the tail number, point of origin and destination were all blocked.

On Tuesday, Ports of Jersey said there were no local search-and-rescue operations or medical evacuations under way at the time. Control of Jersey airspace had been handed to French air traffic control at 10.36 pm on Monday night.

Among the theories expressed online was that the French authorities might have been looking for the gangster Redoine Faid who had escaped from prison.

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Faid’s armed gang broke him out of Reau prison outside of Paris five days ago using smoke bombs and angle-grinders.

He was whisked away from the jail in a helicopter that had been hijacked by his accomplices. The helicopter was ditched in the Gonesse area and Faid has not been seen.

A nationwide manhunt is under way but French authorities have said that Faid may have already fled the country.

It is the gangter’s second dramatic prison escape. In 2013, he escaped from a prison outside Lille using explosives hidden in a tissue box.

Jersey air traffic control are now hoping that colleagues in Brest will be able to solve the mystery.

Tania Targett

By Tania Targett
Journalist

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