The mystery of DB Cooper could soon be solved thanks to new evidence

The mystery of DB Cooper could soon be solved thanks to new evidence
'DB Cooper: Where Are You?!' trailer

It’s a case that has stumped the highest levels of US law enforcement and amateur sleuths alike for more than 52 years.

But now, the mystery of Dan “D.B.” Cooper may soon be solved.

For the uninitiated, the story began on the afternoon of November 24, 1971, when a nondescript man used cash to buy a one-way ticket from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle.

The man, who called himself Dan Cooper, wore a business suit with a white shirt and black tie, according to the FBI. (And remember that black tie, because it could well be the key to unlocking this whole enigma.)

Cooper, who looked to be in his mid-40s, ordered a bourbon and soda while the flight was waiting to take off but, otherwise, he kept himself to himself.

That was, until just after 3pm, when he handed an air attendant a note informing her that he had a bomb in his briefcase and instructing her to sit down.

She did as she was told, and was duly offered a glimpse at the contents of his attaché case, which consisted of a mass of wires and ominous red sticks.

An FBI artist's rendering of the mysterious man who called himself Dan Cooper(FBI)

The hijacker then dictated his demands to her, which she noted down on a piece of paper: four parachutes and $200,000 in twenty-dollar bills.

When the flight landed in Seattle, Cooper exchanged the flight’s 36 passengers for the cash and parachutes, but kept hold of several crew members.

Staying on the plane, he then ordered the pilots to set a course for Mexico city.

But as they travelled between Seattle and Reno, a little after 8pm, Cooper suddenly jumped out of the back of the aircraft using one of the parachutes, clutching his bag of ransom money.

The crew landed safely, but the hijacker disappeared into the night, never to be seen again.

Who he was and what became of him remains unknown to this day, despite the FBI interviewing hundreds of people, tracking leads across the US, and scouring the aircraft for evidence.

The most crucial bit of evidence was the aforementioned black JCPenny clip-on tie, which Cooper left behind in his seat.

The item of clothing was tested countless times over the decades, enabling investigators to discover thousands of particles scattered among its fibres, including rare metals associated with the aerospace sector.

This led amateur sleuth Eric Ulis, who has been studying the case for years, to believe that the suspect was an employee of a special metals facility in Pittsburgh called Crucible Steel, which was a major supplier to Boeing in the 1960s and ‘70s.

He even pinpointed a lead suspect: a man called Vince Petersen who was one of only eight engineers employed at Crucible in the years preceding the skyjacking, Hackadayreports.

Nevertheless, despite their intensive efforts, Ulis and his fellow researchers have failed to find any concrete proof of Cooper’s true identity.

But that all looks set to change.

Cooper wore this black J.C. Penney tie during the hijacking, which he removed before jumping(FBI)

In an interview with TheUS Sun, Ulis explained that he had recently met with scientist Tom Kaye, who had analysed the tie in 2009 and again in 2011.

In order to carry out these tests, Kaye used a special device that captures particles in a filter.

Kaye was tasked with checking for traces of certain metals, chemicals and pollen. However, it now transpires that the device is also capable of capturing DNA.

Ulis and Kaye now plan to share the filter – which has been hermetically sealed for the past 13 years – with a state-of-the-art lab to conduct advanced DNA analysis.

This process, called metagenomic analysis, enables scientists to separate individual strands of DNA.

Once these strands are separated, Kaye and Ulis will start building a genetic profile of Cooper to compare with that of suspects including Vince Petersen.

They also aim to use the DNA for forensic genealogy – building a family tree for Cooper then working backwards to identify him.

"People thought I was kidding when I said things are moving so fast that we could solve this by the end of the year, but I wasn't," Ulis told The US Sun excitedly.

"Metagenomic DNA is the holy grail where this is concerned because it can separate individually all of the DNA profiles on the tie,” he explained.

"It's critically important because [...] let's say you have a dozen different DNA profiles on that tie from everyone who has come into contact with it over the years, including various FBI agents and Cooper himself. We will be able to separate all of those strands individually, and - while we won't know which one is Cooper's - we will be able to gradually narrow them down.”

He added: "If DB Cooper had any kids, for example, those children would likely be on the tie as well. So if any of the dozen or so profiles on the tie are related, that will mostly likely be Cooper's."

One of four parachutes that Cooper requested(FBI)

It’s worth noting that the tie has already been tested twice for DNA, but to little avail.

Still, Ulis isn’t disheartened by this. He pointed out that the testing methods used by investigators 20 years ago were like the "Stone Age" compared to today’s technology.

Nevertheless, the high profile researcher has other hurdles to surmount before his mission here is complete.

Last year, he sued the FBI with the hope of forcing the bureau to release the tie for further testing.

But a judge dismissed the case on the grounds that the Freedom of Information Act pertains only to records and not to tangible objects such as ties.

Ulis intends to appeal the ruling, particularly since he believes investigators overlooked a crucial feature of the tie — a small clasp in the knot that allows the wearer to adjust its size.

He believes is that if Cooper ever adjusted this – which is highly likely – his DNA would be trapped within the clasp’s grooves.

"Metagenomic DNA testing is expensive, time-consuming, and complicated," he explained to The US Sun. "That's why the spindle is of great importance because it's protected. We're likely dealing with a situation where DB Cooper's DNA is isolated on that spindle.

"Maybe there's one or two profiles there, compared with the rest of the tie which could contain dozens. Testing the spindle could give us a solid, clean, and simple profile.”

Still, he boasted: “We don't need the FBI anymore.

“We have more than enough to work with to find DB Cooper ourselves."

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