Convicts escaped by helicopter

Greeks hunt for convicts who escaped by helicopter

ATHENS, Greece – The helicopter company offered “escapes … to idyllic destinations.” But this wasn’t the kind of flight it had in mind.  For the second time in nearly three years, a notorious bank robber was lifted out of a prison where he was being held along with his Albanian accomplice in a rented chopper amid fire from prison guards. Within hours, hundreds of people had joined more than a dozen fan clubs on Facebook celebrating the pair.

Police launched a massive manhunt Monday for Vassilis Paleokostas — the robber hailed by some Greeks as a modern-day Robin Hood — and accomplice Alket Rizaj, throwing up roadblocks and checking the abandoned helicopter for fingerprints and DNA.

Police also announced the arrest of four prison guards and the helicopter pilot, who was found bound, gagged and with a hood over his head. The pilot said he had been hijacked by a man and a woman brandishing an assault rifle and a hand grenade.

The chartered helicopter was found abandoned near a highway north of Athens Sunday. It had a bullet hole in its fuel tank from the gunfight that broke out with guards during the escape, police said.

A local resident captured part of the prison break on amateur video. The grainy footage shows a helicopter rising from the prison and flying off across the city after shots are heard.

Flying low to avoid radar detection, the helicopter swooped down onto Greece’s main high-security Korydallos prison Sunday afternoon, and Paleokostas and Rizaj scrambled up a rope ladder onto the roof.

Gunshots rang out, but the chopper rose almost languidly into the gray winter sky to cheers from prison inmates.

Less than three years ago, the same two men organized an almost identical escape from the Korydallos prison, located in a densely populated western Athens suburb of the same name.

They repeated their feat the day before they had been due to appear in court for their first escape, to the deep embarrassment of Greek judicial authorities and the embattled conservative government.

But while the government scrambled to put on a show of force and vowed measures to prevent further escapes, some Greeks cheered the escaped inmates.

Within hours, hundreds of people had joined more than a dozen fan clubs for Paleokostas on Facebook: “Paleokostas – Korydallos: 2-0” was one of the most popular. The pre-existing “Paleokostas you must escape again (Greek Prison Break)” gained 800 more members, taking it to more than 4,500.

Escapes from prison or police custody are not uncommon in Greece, but most occur when inmates are allowed out on furlough and few are as spectacular a

via Print Story: Greeks hunt for convicts who escaped by helicopter – Yahoo! News.

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