In the US, there’s Jesse James and John Dillinger. In France, there’s Jacques Mesrine. During his crime spree, Mesrine robbed countless banks, broke out of four prisons, and was declared “Public Enemy Number One” in France and Canada. And he did it all while dating models and appearing in magazines.
After serving in a torture squad during the Algerian War, Mesrine returned to Paris a hardened criminal. The man hit bank after bank before stealing some money from the wrong people. The gangster was forced to hide in Quebec, where he spent his free time holding a billionaire for ransom.
Mesrine wound up in a max-security Canadian prison, but the crook cut his way out, armed with only a pair of pliers. Then he returned with a friend and some sawed-off shotguns. Mesrine wanted to free the 56 other prisoners in his wing, and though the rescue attempt failed, let’s give the man points for trying.
After withdrawing cash from several Canadian banks, he went back to France and declared war on the country’s bankers. Sometimes, he robbed two banks a day, just minutes from each other. When he heard sirens coming, he’d leave one and head for the other. The man just loved it when the cops showed up at the wrong bank.
master of disguise!
Mesrine was a master of disguise with a collection of wigs and glasses and sometimes even shaved his head. He never left home without a plan. When he was arrested again in 1973, Mesrine faked a bout of diarrhea, retrieved a gun his friend had planted in a courthouse toilet, and escaped by taking a judge hostage.
The man was also a publicity hound. After escaping prison in 1978, he enjoyed giving interviews to major magazines and posing for photos with his machine guns. Mesrine was a superstar, consistently voted the most popular man in France.
However, his popularity faded when he tortured a journalist for running a negative story about him. Soon, he tried to kidnap a judge who’d sentenced him to prison, and after he captured another rich businessman, the president of France made it clear the gangster had to go.
On November 2, 1979, Mesrine was driving along when he stopped behind a covered truck. Suddenly, the tarp was yanked back, and there was a small army of cops with automatic weapons. The gangster went out like Bonnie and Clyde, which is probably how he wanted to go—in style.