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Presque trente ans après sa mort, Jacques Mesrine, surnommé l’ennemi public n°1, continue d’intriguer. En 1978 et 1979, alors que « l’homme aux mille visages » a toutes les polices de France aux trousses, Gilles Millet, à l’époque journaliste à Libération, le voit régulièrement. Pour la première fois, il raconte ici leurs rencontres. À cette époque aussi, Gilles Millet présente à « l’homme le plus recherché » de France, toujours en cavale, le photographe Alain Bizos pour lequel Mesrine pose. C’est cette série de photographies, dont plusieurs sont inédites, que cet ouvrage livre aujourd’hui dans son ensemble. Portrait à deux voix d’un « bandit » très spécial.

French criminal responsible for numerous murders, bank robberies, burglaries, and kidnappings in France, the US, and Canada. Jacques René Mesrine was born in Clichy-la-Garenne near Paris on 28 December 1936 to a couple of blue-collar origin who had moved up in social class. As a child, he witnessed a massacre of villagers by German soldiers. In 1961, Mesrine became involved with the Organisation armée secrète. In December 1965, Mesrine was arrested in the villa of the military governor in Palma de Mallorca. He was sentenced to six months in jail and later claimed that Spanish authorities believed he was working for French intelligence. In 1966, Mesrine opened a restaurant in the Canary Islands.

In December of the same year, he robbed a jewellery store in Geneva and a hotel in Chamonix. The following year, Mesrine robbed a fashion store in Paris. Mesrine was sentenced to ten years in prison for the bungled kidnapping, but escaped a few weeks later, only to be reapprehended the next day. Mesrine and Schneider were acquitted of the murder of Le Bouthillier in 1971.

With Jean-Paul Mercier, Mesrine cut through the wire to escape again on August 21, 1972, with five others from the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul prison. A week after their foiled attempt to free the prisoners, Mesrine and Mercier went for a target practice session, taking Mercier’s girlfriend along. Mesrine continued robbing banks in Montreal,Canada, and even covertly gained access into the US again for a brief stay at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, before moving to Caracas, Venezuela. By the end of 1972, Mesrine had returned to France, where he resumed robbing banks. On March 5, 1973, during an argument with a cashier in a coffee bar, Mesrine brandished a revolver and seriously injured a police officer who tried to intervene.

He was arrested 3 days later. La Santé was seen as escape proof. In his escapes from his Canadian prisons, Mesrine had required little more than wire cutters and a very high degree of audacity. During this incarceration, however, he faced security far better than any he had defeated before. A report noted that Mesrine had been seen doing exercises in his cell and was behaving like a man who had received good news. Mesrine and Besse robbed a Paris gunsmith four days after their escape from La Santé.