3 Quebec helicopter escapees appear in court

AP News
Posted: Jun 23, 2014 3:52 PM

MONTREAL (AP) — Tight security surrounded the arraignment Monday of three murder suspects who police say used a helicopter to break out of a Quebec prison. The men were later arrested over the weekend while hiding out in a luxury condominium.

Yves Denis, 35, Denis Lefebvre, 53, and Serge Pomerleau, 49, looked weary in the prisoners' dock as they were charged with escaping lawful custody and prison breach. The men were facing murder and gangsterism charges before the jailbreak.

Police say a helicopter plucked the three men from a courtyard of the Orsainville Detention Centre in suburban Quebec City on June 7, triggering an international manhunt. Interpol placed them on its list of the world's most wanted fugitives.

The men were found in a condo in Old Montreal at 1:30 a.m. on Sunday. Police did not divulge details about what led them to the condo where the men were hiding out.

The men were swept up in a major 2010 police operation called Project Crayfish, aimed at bringing down a drug trafficking ring in northwestern Quebec. Denis was charged with first-degree murder, while Lefebvre and Pomerleau were charged with murder and conspiracy to murder, according to the Quebec provincial police website. Their trial on these charges, which started in April, is still continuing.

Quebec provincial police were seen carrying several containers from the condo after searching it. A car was seized and police said Monday they also found $93,000 in cash in the residence.

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

Quebec Superior Court Justice Louis Dionne on Monday also suspended two earlier rulings that had eased the men's conditions behind bars before their brazen escape on June 7. Dionne took away computer privileges for Pomerleau and revoked permission allowing the men to circulate together in the prison yard.

The three will return to court on Thursday.