Aer Lingus Flight 164

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Aer Lingus flight 164
Aer Lingus Boeing 737-200 Marmet.jpg
An Aer Lingus 737-200, similar to the one that was hijacked
Date2 May 1981 (1981-05-02)
SiteLondon Heathrow Airport
Aircraft typeBoeing 737–200
OperatorAer Lingus
Flight originDublin Airport
DestinationLondon Heathrow Airport

Aer Lingus Flight 164 was a scheduled Boeing 737 passenger flight that was hijacked on 2 May 1981, en route from Dublin Airport in Ireland to London Heathrow Airport in the United Kingdom.


While on approach to Heathrow, about five minutes before the flight was due to land, a 55-year-old Australian named Laurence James Downey went into the toilet and doused himself in petrol.[1] He then went to the cockpit and demanded that the plane continue on to Le Touquet – Côte d'Opale Airport in France, and refuel there for a flight to Tehran, Iran.[2][3] Upon landing at Le Touquet, Downey further demanded the publication in the Irish press of a nine-page statement which he had the captain throw from the cockpit window.[4]


After an eight-hour standoff (during which time Downey released 11 of his 112 hostages),[5] French special forces stormed the plane and apprehended Downey. No shots were fired and nobody was injured.[6] It emerged that Downey was being sought by police in Perth, Australia, in connection with a $70,000 land fraud incident,[7] and was also wanted in Shannon, Ireland, for alleged assault.[6] In February 1983, he was sentenced, in Saint-Omer, France, to five years' imprisonment for air piracy.[8]


In his statement, Downey claimed to have been a Trappist monk in residence at Tre Fontane Abbey in the 1950s (this was later confirmed by monastery officials),[2] before he was expelled from the order for punching a superior in the face.[3] He then took a job as a tour guide in central Portugal, at a shrine devoted to Our Lady of Fátima, who is said to have appeared before three children and shared with them three secrets.[2] At the time of the hijacking, the third secret was known only to the Pope and other senior figures in the Catholic Church; Downey's statement called on the Vatican to release this secret to the public.[3]


  1. ^ "Scannal – Aer Lingus Hijack". RTÉ.ie. Retrieved 24 August 2010.
  2. ^ a b c "Hijacker Has Tangled Past". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. 4 May 1981. p. 4B.
  3. ^ a b c "Police storm Irish jetliner; hostages freed unharmed". Kingman Daily Miner. 3 May 1981. pp. 1, 5.
  4. ^ "Former monk hijacks Irish airliner". Spokane Daily Chronicle. 2 May 1981. p. 2.
  5. ^ "Former monk surrenders plane". The Southeast Missourian. 3 May 1981. p. 1.
  6. ^ a b "French Police Storm Plane, Capture Hijacker". The Toledo Blade. 3 May 1981. p. 2.
  7. ^ "Obsessions of ex-monk hijacker". The Sydney Morning Herald. 5 May 1981. p. 13.
  8. ^ "Hijacker sentenced". The Telegraph. 14 February 1983. p. 5.

Coordinates: 50°30′53″N 001°37′39″E / 50.51472°N 1.62750°E / 50.51472; 1.62750