A handwritten letter signed “D.B. Cooper” and mailed to a Vancouver newspaper in 1971 was one of 95 pieces of evidence in a cold-case investigation that’s the subject of a new documentary on the History Channel.
The letter, mailed to The Province in an envelope postmarked in Vancouver on Nov. 30, 1971, was one of four letters mailed to three newspapers in the Pacific Northwest by someone claiming to be the infamous fugitive, who had hijacked a plane from Portland to Seattle six days earlier and made his escape by parachuting out of plane 10,000 feet above Oregon with $200,000.
“You’re the only paper that can say ‘we have the evidence mailed to us that appears to link him to the aircraft,’” Thomas J. Colbert, a filmmaker and former journalist who assembled a team of 40 investigators in the hopes of cracking the case, told The Province.
A handwriting expert hired by Colbert compared the taunting note to the hijacker’s ticket, purchased under the name Dan Cooper and concluded they appeared to be written by one person.
The finding is not conclusive, however, and wouldn’t hold up in court because the original copy of the letter, submitted to Vancouver police, has gone missing, said Colbert.
The letter, addressed to the “Chief Editor, The Province” complained about the inaccuracy of the composite drawing of the hijacker. The writer claimed he watched a Grey Cup game and thanked the city for its hospitality.
The other letters, mailed to papers in Reno and Portland over a five-day span used cut-and-pasted letters. Two of the letters were mailed from cities in Northern California within 80 km of a small town where a man Colbert believes to be Cooper had lived on and off in the 1970s.
The Province note was turned over to police. At the time, it was dismissed as a likely hoax because it was mailed within a day of the other letters. But Colbert said Cooper had used those letters to throw authorities off his scent and used a small plane to hop between the cities.
A new four-hour documentary on the unsolved case, which aired last week on the History Channel, suggested D.B. Cooper is Robert Rackstraw, a combat pilot and paratrooper with Special Forces training. It showed video footage of Colbert’s crew approaching Rackstraw, now 72, at a marina in California.
Colbert also co-wrote an book titled The Last Master Outlaw, detailing the evidence that suggested Rackstraw was the culprit.
On Tuesday The FBI issued a statement saying it is no longer actively investigating the D.B. Cooper case in order to focus on other priorities.
Colbert held a press conference is Los Angeles Wednesday, calling on the FBI to reopen the case.
When asked how certain he was Rackstraw is the wanted fugitive, Colbert said: “Absolutely sure,” then added: “Well, I can’t say 100 per cent sure until he admits it but you can’t have 95 arrows pointing the same way.”
Rackstraw’s lawyer told the San Jose Mercury News he is considering filing a civil lawsuit against the History Channel and the book’s authors.