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Three Quebec helicopter escapees appear in court

Trio captured in a Montreal condo on Sunday

QUEBEC CITY, Que. – Tight security surrounded the court appearance Monday of three men who used a helicopter to break out of prison and were hunted worldwide until they were nabbed in a luxury condo.

Yves Denis, Denis Lefebvre, and Serge Pomerleau looked weary in the prisoners’ dock during arraignment on charges of escaping lawful custody and prison breach.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Louis Dionne also suspended two of his earlier rulings that eased the men’s conditions behind bars before their brazen escape on June 7.

He took away computer privileges for Pomerleau and revoked permission allowing the men to circulate together in the prison yard.

Details of the arguments in court cannot be reported because of a ban on the publication of details.

The men glanced occasionally around the courtroom during their appearance and sometimes shifted slightly.

Conditions for the men had been eased before their escape despite the prison being aware that there was the possibility of a plot to break them out.

Acknowledgment of the existence of a possible jailbreak conspiracy is contained in Dionne’s judgment dated March 24.

Dionne had been asked to rule on the strict security conditions which the inmates argued prevented them from helping in their defence on charges of murder and gangsterism.

In his ruling, which was recently made public, Dionne gave the detainees access to a secured computer for their trial preparation. The ruling also stated they didn’t have to wear handcuffs during proceedings and would be allowed to go into the prison yard on weekday evenings, prison staffing permitting.

The trio, who were dressed in T-shirts, will return to court on Thursday.

Their trial on the other charges, which started in April, is still continuing.

The men were brought to court earlier in the morning in three separate convoys. Each man was in a different prison van, which raced through the streets from the suburban Orsainville detention centre to an enclosed courthouse garage.

Provincial police cars with flashing emergency lights and screaming sirens provided an escort.

Journalists and members of the public who wanted to attend the proceeding had to pass through airport-style security to get into the courtroom. They were searched and had to show identification.

Pomerleau, Denis and Lefebrvre were the subject of an Interpol red alert since their escape two weeks ago.

Quebec provincial police tracked them to a luxury condo in Old Montreal early Sunday morning.

A heavily armed tactical squad busted open the door of the condo around 1:30 a.m. The men did not resist.

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 $100,000 in cash in the residence.

The Quebec government has ordered an internal investigation into the jailbreak, which is the second using a helicopter in just over a year.

Two inmates fled the St-Jerome detention centre by helicopter in March 2013, but were quickly recaptured.

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