A "promising" lead has emerged in the D.B. Cooper case, involving the 1971 Thanksgiving Eve hijacking of a Seattle-bound passenger jet and the suspect's legendary parachute escape with $200,000 dollars in ransom, according to reports.
FBI spokeswoman Ayn Sandalo Dietrich told The Seattle Times that a law enforcement member had directed investigators to a person who might have helpful information on the suspect, dubbed "D.B. Cooper," whom some believe was a media creation.
The case remains the only unsolved airline hijacking in U.S. history.
According to reports, a dark-complexioned man in his mid-40s and calling himself Dan Cooper, purchased a one-way ticket to Seattle the day before Thanksgiving, 1971, at the Portland airport counter of Northwest Orient Airlines.
According to the LA Times, when the Boeing 727 was in the air between Portland, Ore., and Seattle, the man:
ordered a bourbon and water and lighted a cigarette (in those days one could smoke on an airplane). He called over a stewardess and handed her a note, printed in all capitals: "I have a bomb in my briefcase. I will use it if necessary. I want you to sit next to me. You are being hijacked."
By late afternoon, the plane had landed in Seattle, had been refueled and passengers taken off. By evening, the ransom and parachutes were delivered and the plane took off for Reno. At 8:13 p.m., the aircraft's tail section sustained a sudden upward movement.
When the craft landed at 10:15 p.m., authorities searched but Cooper was no longer on board.
The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports that agents had previously said they believe the hijacker died the night he jumped.
Dietrich, meanwhile, reportedly said an item belonging to the man had been sent to a lab in Quantico, Va., for forensic testing, though she did not provide specifics.
She "cautioned that the FBI is not on the verge of a 'big break' " but rather carrying out "due diligence" on the new information.
Federal investigators have checked more than 1,000 leads on the D.B. Cooper hijacking, and while the case has remained open the trail had gone cold, the LA Times reports.
The FBI's recent tip in the case was "first reported by the Telegraph newspaper in London, a testament to D.B. Cooper's international appeal," the Times reports.
In the Telegraph story, Dietrich is quoted as saying: "The credible lead is somebody whose possible connection to the hijacker is strong. And the suspect is not a name that's come up before."
Dietrich, who also calls the new information the "most promising lead we have right now," reportedly said FBI disclosed the information to a Telegraph reporter but didn't think the article would appear until November.