Jacques René Mesrine was born in Clichy, France. He was arrested for the first time in 1962 with three accomplices before an attempt to rob a bank. He had been a professional criminal for years at that time. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison and released in 1963.
In 1966, Mesrine opened a restaurant in Canary Islands but by November 1967 he was robbing a hotel in Chamonix. In February 1968, he fled to Canada with his mistress and worked briefly as a chauffeur. After an unsuccessful kidnapping attempt they fled to the USA but was arrested in Arkansas and extradited to Canada.
Mesrine was sentenced to ten years in prison for the kidnapping but escaped in 1972 with five others. He began to rob banks in Montreal, two in the same day, as was his style - with accomplice Jean-Paul Mercier. On the 3rd of September, they failed in an attempt to help three others escape from the same prison they had been in. A week later they murdered two forest rangers. By the end of the year they moved to Venezuela with two mistresses in tow.
At the end of 1972, Mesrine was back in France and robbing banks. In March 1973, he was briefly arrested, but fled during the sentencing in court, taking a judge hostage. Four months later, he was arrested again in his new Paris apartment. On May 8, 1978 he escaped with three other convicts.
Mesrine performed burglaries, jewellery shop and bank robberies, kidnappings and arms smuggling. He also killed many people, and boasted about 39 murders in total.
On June 21, 1979 Mesrine kidnapped millionaire Henri Lelièvre and received a ransom of 6 million francs. Mesrine had become "French Public Enemy Number One". In November 1979 they found out where he lived and made their move.
At Porte de Clignancourt, on the outskirts of Paris, a truck loaded with armed policemen veered before his BMW and police sharpshooters shot 19 rounds through the windshield. French police announced the operation as a success and received congratulations from president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. Afterwards there were complaints that Mesrine was not given any warning, that the police did not act in self-defense, and thus that Mesrine was assassinated by the police.