Investigators have got their hands on a set of new documents that they believe has confirmed the identity of DB Cooper, one of the great antiheroes of modern history.
The 40-strong team of former FBI agents, forensic scientists, and private investigators claim to have found a secret code within a letter written by the parachuting bandit, revealing his true identity as a 74-year-old Vietnam veteran currently living in San Diego. The new discovery keeps in line with their previous work outlined in the book The Last Master Outlaw.
Here's how the story goes: On Thanksgiving eve, November 24, 1971, a Northwest Airlines flight set off from Portland bound for Seattle. Shortly after taking off, a smartly dressed man lit a cigarette and ordered a bourbon with soda. According to the FBI's story, he approached one of the flight attendants and informed her that he was armed with a bomb, then stated his demands of $200,000, four parachutes, and a fuel truck on standby in Seattle.
Just before 6pm, the aircraft touched down at Seattle-Tacoma Airport. The man received their side of the deal, a knapsack of banknotes, and some parachutes, so he ordered all the frenzied passengers off the plane while it refueled, before telling the remaining crew to head towards Mexico City. Once the plane was back at its desired altitude, the man parachuted out and was never seen again.
The countless officials and civilian investigations have generated an ever-mounting list of potential suspects, however, this latest breakthrough claims to be the closest guess yet.
Seattle Pi reports that the investigation team has obtained five typed letters, alleged sent by DB Cooper to newspapers in the days following the hijacking, that have recently been released by the FBI through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The fifth letter starts by saying: “I knew from the start I wouldn’t get caught."
Most crucially, there’s a series of numbers at the bottom of the letter. Tom Colbert, TV producer and lead investigator, said one of the team’s code-breakers noticed the sequence and found corresponding code in an LA Times newspaper archive. This code, the investigators claim, relates three Army units served in by a man they have suspected for numerous years, Robert Rackstraw, a 74-year-old Vietnam vet first pegged as a suspect in 1978.
Rackstraw stringently denies these allegations, although independent experts believe the team might be onto something.
"I think the coding thing is remarkable, but I'm a hard skeptic," Dorwin Schreuder, a former FBI agent who worked on the case in the early 1980s, told Seattle Pi. "The circumstances of those codes being what Tom says they are, that he says nobody but him would know these units and these figures, if it's true that's pretty hard to argue against."
It's certainly not "case closed" just yet, but the investigators remain confident they have got their man.