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Sex attacker escapes prison in chopper

A CULT leader jailed for sex attacks on children escaped in a helicopter from a prison on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion yesterday, the regional administration said.

Juliano Verbard, who was serving a 15-year term for rapes and sex assaults on children, and two of his jailed followers were hauled on board a chopper hijacked by three accomplices, said senior official Jean-Francois Moniotte.

“All our search procedures have been put into action to find them,” said Moniotte, who is chief of staff to Reunion’s prefect, the central government’s representative and police chief on the island.

The helicopter landed on waste ground a few hundred yards away and the gang escaped in a van that had been waiting for them, he said.

The two crew members were unhurt and are assisting police.

Earlier, the hijackers had boarded the chopper pretending to be tourists, before seizing control and directing the pilots to Domenjod Prison, where it landed in the exercise yard and took on the escapees.

Verbard, 27, was the guru of the self-styled “Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary”, a cult with no connection to mainstream Catholic institutions, on the island of Reunion, a French territory in the Indian Ocean.


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