Is the mystery of DB Cooper about to be solved? FBI reveals it has new suspect 40 years after America’s most elusive fugitive parachuted from a hijacked plane
The FBI today revealed that it believes it has America's most elusive fugitive finally in its sights 40 years after famed hijacker DB Cooper disappeared when he jumped out of a plane over Washington. Investigators said that they are testing the fingerprints of a new suspect after what they said is the 'most promising' lead to date in its bid to crack America's only unsolved hijacking. A mystery hijacker calling himself Dan Cooper, also known as DB Cooper, boarded a Northwest flight in Portland for a flight to Seattle on the night of November 24 1971, and commandeered the plane, claiming he had dynamite.
Close to be caught? Artists sketches of America's most elusive fugitive DB Cooper who hijacked an aeroplane and extorted $200,000 from the FBI before escaping by parachute in 1971
In Seattle, he demanded and got $200,000 and four parachutes and demanded to be flown to Mexico. Somewhere over southwestern Washington, he jumped out the plane's tail exit with two of the chutes, and was never seen or heard from again. The FBI today announced that it has a new suspect in the case who they are hoping to link to a tie Cooper left on the plane and cigarette butts in an ashtray using DNA testing and fingerprints. There have been more than 1,000 suspects over the past four decades, but the FBI have described the new lead as 'looking like our most promising one to date'. 'We do actually have a new suspect we're looking at,' said FBI spokesman Ayn Dietrich as she revealed the twist in the investigation. 'It comes from a credible lead who came to our attention recently via a law enforcement colleague,' she said.
Map: Locations in Washington where Cooper was originally thought to have landed and where some of the ransom money was found in 1980
'The credible lead is somebody whose possible connection to the hijacker is strong,' she told the Daily Telegraph. 'And the suspect is not a name that's come up before.' The FBI said that an item belonging to the suspect has been sent for testing at a forensics lab in Quantico, Virginia. 'We're hoping there are fingerprints they can take off of it,' she said. 'It would be a significant lead. And this is looking like our most promising one to date.' The FBI has refused to reveal if the suspect is still alive. 'Generally the large majority of subjects we look into now are already deceased based on the timing,' said Ms Dietrich. It could be some time before the FBI gets the results back from the tests.
Plot: A hijacked Northwest Airlines jetliner 727 sits on a runway for refuelling at Tacoma International Airport on November 25 1971
The mysterious hijacking has intrigued federal agents and amateur sleuths since it took place in November 1971. A man calling himself Dan Cooper boarded the Northwest flight after buying a $20 one-way ticket to Seattle. After getting on the plane wearing sunglasses, he ordered whisky and lit a cigarette before passing a flight attendant a note that read: 'I HAVE A BOMB IN MY BRIEFCASE. I WILL USE IT IF NECESSARY. I WANT YOU TO SIT NEXT TO ME. YOU ARE BING HIJACKED.' Cooper told the captain that in return for $200,000 and four parachutes, he would allow 36 people to leave the plane when it landed in Seattle. The FBI agreed to the swap and the plane took off again under Cooper's orders to fly towards Mexico at an altitude of under 10,000 feet. Somewhere over the lower Cascade mountains in southwestern Washington, Cooper stepped out of the plane with a parachute strapped to his back.
Clues: Three packets of ransom money, totalling $5,800, were found on the Columbia river in February 1980
Several people have claimed to be Cooper over the years but were dismissed on the basis of physical descriptions, parachuting experience and, later, by DNA evidence recovered in 2001 from the cheap tie the skyjacker left on the plane. Items recovered from the skyjack include $5,800 of the stolen money, in tattered $20 bills and Cooper's tie Many believe that Cooper was Richard McCoy, a Vietnam War veteran, experienced parachutist and BYU political science student who staged a similar hijacking several months later. But the FBI has said that McCoy - who was killed in a shoot-out with law enforcement officers after a prison break in 1974 - simply didn't fit the description of Cooper provided by two flight attendants. In 1980, a boy walking near the Columbia River found $5,800 of the stolen money, in tattered $20 bills.