The Daring Prisoner Who Managed To Escape From Jail With The Help Of Some Nectarines

Even the most modest of us can be driven insane by love. How far would you go to help your true love if they needed it? What if they asked you to break the law to help them? Would you do it? This riveting tale of escape has all the right ingredients of a gripping folk tale: drama, love, action, suspense, shootouts, redemption, and perhaps most important of all, Vitamin C!

Michel Vaujour wasn't your run-of-the-mill bank robber who had landed himself in the clink owing to unfortunate circumstances. By 1986, he still had 28 years to serve in a Parisian prison for armed robbery and attempted murder of a police officer in a heist gone wrong (per Time). However, the soul, for all of its complexities, often has one simple desire; to be free.

By this time, Vaujour had already attempted four prison escapes. One of the most infamous was in 1979 when he forged a fake handgun out of hand soap and shoe polish so that he could flee a courtroom, a performance right out of John Dillinger's playbook (via Time). However, it would be his prison escape from La Sante Prison in 1986 that would go down in history as one of the most insane prison breaks of all time. As with many epic escapes, Vaujour couldn't have done it alone, which is where Michel's wife, Nadine Vaujour, enters the tale.

Squeeze the day: the escape

Unwavering loyalty and devotion are tremendous traits to have in a partner, but how about a fake helicopter license? As reported by Time, Nadine had been taking helicopter flying lessons under the alias Lena Rigon in the six months running up to the prison break. On May 27, 1986, at 10:45 a.m., Nadine somehow rented a chopper using her forged helicopter license and flew to the Sante penitentiary in Paris to pick up her beloved husband (per Time).

Every man and his dog could tell you what to do when life gives you lemons. But, let's say life doesn't give you lemons, instead it gives you nectarines. What then? If you're Michel Vaujour, the answer is to make believe they're grenades until you get what you want. According to The Sunday Times, Vaujour painted nectarines to look like grenades and forced his way up to the prison roof with another prisoner, to where his wife was hovering overhead in her helicopter, waiting to transport them to freedom. Michel was able to climb up the cable that Nadine had dropped down. However, in the chaos, his prisoner accomplice, Pierre Hernandez, was unable to flee in time and was abandoned (per The New York Times). 

A few minutes after the escape, the helicopter landed on the soccer field of a student dormitory in the southern part of Paris, and the two hopped into a waiting getaway car (per The New York Times). So, how did the fortunes of these two daring lovers fare in the end?

The house always wins: the aftermath

France is a bit of a hotbed for hijacked helicopter escapes, for some inexplicable reason, with at least 11 documented throughout its history (via The Sunday Times). The Vaujours' escape attempt would be just the second in the country's history, and it made international headlines. With such a daring prison break that makes El Chapo look like an amateur, it's easy to imagine that there would have been a lot of heat following the Vaujours in the months following their remarkable aerial escape.

Old habits are hard to break, and Michel Vaujour was the first to fall. Astonishingly, Michel would go back to his old tricks and be busted again for trying to rob a bank mere months after his successful prison escape. This botched heist led Michel and two assailants, all dressed in wigs, into a confrontation with police, resulting in Michel getting shot in the head and slipping into a coma (per AP News). The next day, on September 27, 1986, French authorities arrested Nadine at a small town safehouse in southwest France. In the months following their escape, the famed pair supposedly went undiscovered by neighbors (via AP News). Astonishingly, the outlaw Michel Vaujour was given a second chance at life. Despite becoming partially paralyzed from the gunfight, he recovered and was eventually released from prison in 2003 (per Culture Unplugged).

Unfortunately, it's unclear what happened to Nadine once she seemingly vanished from history, but one thing is certain: Despite such a famous gesture of love, she and Michel separated before he was released from prison (per Unifrance).