He scampered up his long-planned escape route to the top of the stairwell, opened the skylight, and quietly pulled himself up onto the roof. By then, he could hear the BRB knocking down his door. Moments later, he descended through a neighboring building’s skylight and made his way to a hiding spot he’d scoped out, a storage space where residents stowed baby carriages and bikes. He spent the next six hours ensconced there, 9-mm pistol in hand, until an associate he contacted via walkie-talkie whisked him away in a getaway car.
Afterward, Faïd phoned the journalist he collaborated with on Outlaw, explaining that he was innocent but that his only way to prove it was to run. He was on the lam for almost six months, during which time an armored vehicle was robbed near Arras, a city in northern France. Faïd was finally nabbed, along with other suspects, in a sting operation. In his pocket, police found 2,000 euros bearing serial numbers matching those of bills taken in Arras.
Prosecutors not only accused him of this robbery but also argued that he was responsible for the aborted heist that subsequently led to Aurélie Fouquet’s death. Though he didn’t shoot her and wasn’t even accused of being at the scene of the crime, he was, they said, the “organizer” and “instigator” of the operation. The court agreed, finding him guilty. His appeals failed. Faïd would ultimately be sentenced to 53 years for the events that caused Fouquet’s death and for the Arras robbery. Given that he was in his 40s, it was effectively a life sentence.
Faïd eventually landed in the Sequedin prison, in November 2012. His stay there was, for the first months, uneventful. But then came the morning of April 13, 2013. As guards escorted Faïd out of his cell for a visit with his brother, he brought with him what was thought to be a bag of dirty laundry. What the guards didn’t realize was that the bag contained not clothes but, as would soon become abundantly clear, a loaded gun, lighters, and an explosive material called pentaerythritol tetranitrate, which had been smuggled into the jail.
“In a few minutes, the watchtowers’ sniper rifles will be fixed on me,” he writes in Spiral. “But the fact that I’ve trained like crazy to be able to operate in these circumstances means that I’m full of confidence. I’m sure of myself. In my head and in my heart, it’s decided: I’m going for it—all the way.”
Laundry bag in hand, Faïd proceeded down a corridor toward the visitation chamber. When he arrived, he dropped onto one knee and rummaged through his bag. Another inmate stood waiting for his own session to begin. Their eyes met just long enough for the other convict to understand what was about to occur. Faïd pulled out a handgun and shot it into the ceiling to show it was loaded. He then took four guards, each unarmed, as hostages. “Don’t be a cowboy for 1,300 or 1,400 euros,” Faïd told them, referring to their low pay. “It’s not worth it. Think of your families. Think of your kids.”
“He escapes twice,” says journalist Elsa Vigoureux, “and in the collective unconscious, it’s as though Algeria has attacked France twice. Some people have taken it that way.”
From his laundry bag, he also produced a bundle of the explosives and proceeded to blow his way through an armored door. In all, he would need to blast through five such barriers. Nearing the final gate, Faïd positioned the guards around him as human shields to make sure the snipers in the watchtowers couldn’t fire a clean shot. Once he and his hostages made it outside the prison wall, the police could only watch, still unable to shoot safely, as he shepherded his group toward the highway, where an escape vehicle awaited them. Faïd let three of the guards go, keeping one with him until it was clear they weren’t being followed.
For the next six weeks, Faïd roamed free, bouncing from hotel to hotel in disguise, wearing wigs. French police suspected that he might have left the country. Interpol put out a Red Notice, broadcasting his fugitive status to the whole world.