Aer Lingus Flight 164
An Aer Lingus 737-200, similar to the one that was hijacked
|Date||2 May 1981|
|Site||London Heathrow Airport|
|Aircraft type||Boeing 737–200|
|Flight origin||Dublin Airport|
|Destination||London Heathrow Airport|
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. 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. 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.
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), before he was expelled from the order for punching a superior in the face. 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. 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.
After an eight-hour standoff (during which time Downey released 11 of his 112 hostages), French special forces stormed the plane and apprehended Downey. No shots were fired and nobody was injured. It emerged that Downey was being sought by police in Perth, Australia, in connection with a $70,000 land fraud incident, and was also wanted in Shannon, Ireland, for alleged assault. In February 1983, he was sentenced to five years imprisonment for air piracy.
- "Scannal – Aer Lingus Hijack". RTÉ.ie. Retrieved 24 August 2010.
- "Hijacker Has Tangled Past". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. 4 May 1981. p. 4B.
- "Police storm Irish jetliner; hostages freed unharmed". Kingman Daily Miner. 3 May 1981. pp. 1, 5.
- "Former monk hijacks Irish airliner". Spokane Daily Chronicle. 2 May 1981. p. 2.
- "Former monk surrenders plane". The Southeast Missourian. 3 May 1981. p. 1.
- "French Police Storm Plane, Capture Hijacker". The Toledo Blade. 3 May 1981. p. 2.
- "Obsessions of ex-monk hijacker". The Sydney Morning Herald. 5 May 1981. p. 13.
- "Hijacker sentenced". The Telegraph. 14 February 1983. p. 5.
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