Saturday, 26 April 2014

Duane Weber - Was He D.B.Cooper?

One of the greatest mysteries in U.S. history was the hijacking of a plane by a man who called himself Dan Cooper.  A communication mix-up by the media renamed him D.B.Cooper.  What he did was to successfully extort a ransom from the authorities and then parachute from the plane after it took off again.  He has never been found.  It has led to numerous books, theories, documentaries, suspects, but nothing solid has emerged.  It all began on 12th November 1971, on a Boeing 727, belonging to Northwest Orient Airlines, flying from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington.  A flight Attendant had her attention drawn by a passenger, who showed her what appeared to be a bomb.  She informed the Captain, Bill Scott, who radioed ahead.  This immediately brought in the FBI.  The ransom demand was for $200,000.  He allowed the plane to land at Seattle-Tacoma Airport, where he allowed the other passengers and some of the crew off.  He wanted the plane to be refueled.  The ransom was delivered to the plane.  He now gave orders of what direction, height and speed, to fly at.  This gave the impression he may have worked in the industry.

    They took off and the speed was very slow, needing Bill Scott`s piloting skills to make sure it stayed up.  A fighter plane followed at a distance.  Flight Attendant Tina Mucklow was told by Cooper to go to the cockpit and stay there.  She joined Scott, co-pilot Rataczak, and Flight Engineer Anderson.  Just before she shut the door, she saw Cooper putting on a parachute.  He had four delivered with the ransom.  Then an indicator signalled the aft stairwell was being lowered.  Scott managed to land his plane with it down.  Cooper was gone.  Immediately search teams scoured the huge area that the plane crossed after the stairwell was lowered.  He was thought to have landed in the area of the Columbia River.  There was no trace of anything. No body, no parachute, clothing, etc.  He had vanished into folklore.

    Fast forward to 1995, and a dying man named Duane Weber, told his wife that he was in fact Dan Cooper.  She did not recognise the name until some friends told her about the hijacking.  She went into her local library and found a book on the case.  She was shocked to see notations in it, in her husbands` hand writing.  She now said she understood why her husband talked in his sleep of "jumping of a plane" and that a knee injury he had, was because of a parachute jump.  He was a chain smoker and drank Bourbon, like Cooper.  But so do many others.  they once took a trip to the Columbia River area, with Weber going for a solitary walk in the Tina Bar area.  Four months later, a young boy found some bundles of money in the soil by the river.  This was positively identified as being part of the ransom money.  After the deathbed confession, Weber was investigated very closely by the FBI and eliminated as a suspect in 1998.  There were none of his prints on the plane.  What they did find out was that between 1945 & 1968, Weber had been jailed six times for offences such as fraud and burglary.  Was he Cooper?  Probably just said that to give the authorities a bit of a runaround.  Who knows?