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Deathbed confession of the man who says he is D.B. Cooper


It is one of the most famous unsolved crimes in American history and the stuff of Hollywood movies.

A mysterious man boarded a Boeing 727 in Portland, Oregon, in 1971, hijacked the passenger plane with a fake bomb and extorted a ransom of $200,000 before he made a daring escape in a parachute, never to be seen again.

Over a 20-year period the FBI interviewed more than 1,000 suspects in what became known as the case of D.B. Cooper, but the culprit was never identified.

To this day it remains the only unsolved skyjacking in commercial aviation history.

But now recordings from a man who claimed that he was Cooper reveal how he told his best friend that even in the moment, he couldn’t believe he was hijacking a plane.

The man in the recordings is Walter R. Reca, born ‘Peca’, of Oscoda, Michigan, who died in 2014, aged 80. They are revealed by DailyMail.com for the first time.

The 82nd Airborne paratrooper who went on to become a covert intelligence operative for several governments says he handed a stewardess a note announcing the hijacking that said ‘This is a hijack and I’ve got explosives’.

‘She said “I can’t believe you’re actually hijacking this airplane”. I said “I can’t believe it either but I’m serious”,’ Reca recalled.  

A team of investigators believe they have found the true identity of D.B. Cooper (a sketch pictured), the man who hijacked a plane in Portland, Oregon, in 1971, extorted a ransom and escaped in a parachute

They believe the man to be Walter R. Reca, born 'Peca' (pictured)

A team of investigators believe they have found the true identity of D.B. Cooper (a sketch pictured left), the man who hijacked a plane in Portland, Oregon, in 1971, extorted a ransom and escaped in a parachute. They believe the man to be Walter R. Reca, born ‘Peca’ (right)

Reca was a former Army paratrooper and war veteran who survived the jump and went on to become a high-level covert intelligence operative for several governments

Reca was a former Army paratrooper and war veteran who survived the jump and went on to become a high-level covert intelligence operative for several governments

Reca is pictured above right inspecting a fellow skydiver's batwing suit, circa late 1950s, nearly two decades before the hijacking

Reca is pictured above right inspecting a fellow skydiver’s batwing suit, circa late 1950s, nearly two decades before the hijacking

Reca, left, kept his life experiences secret until 2008, when he told his story to his close friend, Carl Laurin (left)

Reca, left, kept his life experiences secret until 2008, when he told his story to his close friend, Carl Laurin (left)

A team of investigators in Michigan are certain that Reca is true identity of Cooper.

They claim that ‘Cooper’ was a former Army paratrooper and war veteran who survived the jump and went on to become a high-level covert intelligence operative for several governments. 

WALTER RECA CONFESSED THAT HE WAS D.B. COOPER TO FRIEND CARL LAURIN

Carl Laurin has cassette recordings of Reca telling him that he is D.B Cooper

In one recording obtained by DailyMail.com, Laurin asked Reca about the contents note he gave a stewardess during the hijacking. 

‘I can’t remember… This is a hijack and I’ve got explosives,’ Reca recalled. ‘So I did hand her the note and she kind of put it in her pocket. She said “I can’t believe you’re actually hijacking this airplane”. I said “I can’t believe it either but I’m serious”.’

Reca said that he wanted all used $20 – a request that wasn’t fulfilled – and had gave messages to the cockpit through a stewardess. 

Before jumping from the plane, he asked for two parachutes and for the wheels to be lowered to ‘slow down the aircraft’. 

He said that he requested two parachutes and opened one in the plane to ensure it worked properly before jumping. 

The revelation will spark a frenzy of interest from crime sleuths around the world who have followed the case closely.

The fruitless, decades-long manhunt inspired several books; movies, including The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper with Robert Duvall; songs, such as Chuck Brodsky’s The Ballad of D. B. Cooper; poems and more.

And the crime also altered aviation history because, after Cooper escaped, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered that the rear stairwells on all 727 airplanes must be secured with the installation of a device that, to this day, is called a ‘Cooper vane’, named after the hijacker.

It all started in 1971 when a man identifying himself as Dan Cooper boarded a plane in Portland, Oregon, bound for Seattle, Washington.

He sat in seat 18C, smoked a cigarette and slipped a note to an airline stewardess named Florence Schaffner.

The note said: ‘I have a bomb in my briefcase. I want you to sit beside me.’

The stewardess did as she was told, then asked to see the bomb.

Cooper opened his briefcase to reveal a fake, but very convincing, ‘bomb’, consisting of a battery, a cluster of wires and six red sticks.

Calmly and politely Cooper gave further instructions.

‘I want $200,000 by 5pm in cash put in a knapsack. I want two back parachutes and two front parachutes. When we land, I want a fuel truck ready to refuel. No funny stuff or I’ll do the job.’

The crew radioed ahead for the money to be obtained from several banks.

Reca (right, with his niece Lisa Story) confessed to his friend that he hijacked the plane and fled by parachute. On the following Monday morning Reca reported back to work as an ironworker on the Grand Coulee Dam

Reca (right, with his niece Lisa Story) confessed to his friend that he hijacked the plane and fled by parachute. On the following Monday morning Reca reported back to work as an ironworker on the Grand Coulee Dam

Reca worked as a covert government agency and was particularly valuable for his language skills. He's pictured above on a resume prepared by a U.S. Consulate in Saudi Arabia in the late 1980s

Reca worked as a covert government agency and was particularly valuable for his language skills. He’s pictured above on a resume prepared by a U.S. Consulate in Saudi Arabia in the late 1980s

 

When the plane landed the cash was delivered to Cooper onboard the aircraft.

He then released the passengers and gave orders for the pilot to head to Mexico City.

He specified that they fly below 10,000 feet and with wing flaps at 15 degrees, to ensure the aircraft’s speed was under 200 knots.

After they were back up in the air, and over a particular location Cooper had chosen, he opened a rear door on the plane, where there was a stairwell that could be lowered.

He strapped the cash around his body, put on a parachute, some thermals and a trench coat, lowered himself down the stairs and jumped.

Many speculated that he died on landing but his body, alive or dead, was never found.

Now, according to a new book, titled D.B. Cooper & Me: A Criminal, A Spy, My Best Friend, written by Carl Laurin, the fate of Cooper – real name Reca – has been revealed.

The author claims Reca didn’t die after the jump, though he did hit a tree and injured his leg. 

After discarding the parachute he walked two and a half miles to the Teanaway Junction Cafe, in Washington State, and called his friend Don Brennan to come and pick him up.

But Reca had no idea where he was. So he asked a man in the cafe, a cowboy-hat-wearing local named Jeff Osiadacz, to give Brennan the directions over the phone.

‘He was soaking wet and freezing…and I remember he was wearing these penny loafers,’ said Osiadacz, who had no inkling that Reca had committed any crimes until 2012.

Brennan collected Reca and drove him home, to Hartline, Washington, where he changed his wet clothes and hid the money.

Reca  gave Laurin  evidence to support his story, including the thermal Long Johns (pictured) he had worn under his clothes to jump from the plane.

Reca gave Laurin evidence to support his story, including the thermal Long Johns (pictured) he had worn under his clothes to jump from the plane.

On Monday morning Reca reported back to work as an ironworker on the Grand Coulee Dam.

Reca still hadn’t had his leg injury seen by a doctor, so his foreman sent him to the infirmary.

According to previously unheard audio confessions Reca went about his normal business until two months after the hijacking, when he was approached at work by two strangers.

They asked him if he’d like to spend the rest of his life in prison or if he’d prefer to work for them as a covert government agency.

The rest of Reca’s incredible story is set to become history.

He kept his secret for 37 years, until he finally confessed everything to his best friend and fellow skydiving enthusiast Carl Laurin.

The bombshell revelation happened on the eve of Thanksgiving in 2008 -the anniversary of his crime.

For Laurin the confession wasn’t such a shock, he had suspected from day one that his friend had committed the crime.

‘I was sitting at home with my wife Loretta when the news of the hijacking flashed on the television screen [November 24, 1971],’ he said.

‘As we listened to the details of that night’s happenings, I realized that the hijacker’s behavior sounded very similar to Walt’s.

‘He’d long talked about how to pull off a robbery with a parachute. I turned to Loretta and said, ‘What the hell did Walt just do?’,’ recalled, Laurin, 84, a US Army veteran who served in the 82nd Airborne and is now retired and living in Florida.

Feeling immensely suspicious Laurin spent years probing his friend about the hijacking, but Reca always denied it or skirted the subject. Eventually, on that Thanksgiving eve, the confession came.

Jeff Osiadacz, witness to Walter Reca's arrival at Teanaway Junction Café within 30 minutes of his jump from the plane, said he had no inkling that Reca had committed any crimes until 2012

Jeff Osiadacz, witness to Walter Reca’s arrival at Teanaway Junction Café within 30 minutes of his jump from the plane, said he had no inkling that Reca had committed any crimes until 2012

Reca told his best friend Carl Laurin that a couple of months after the skyjacking, two strangers at the Brown Derby Tavern in Spokane, Washington, told him he could either work for them or go to prison. It was the beginning of Reca's new life as a high-level operative

Reca told his best friend Carl Laurin that a couple of months after the skyjacking, two strangers at the Brown Derby Tavern in Spokane, Washington, told him he could either work for them or go to prison. It was the beginning of Reca’s new life as a high-level operative

‘He called me and said ‘I am D.B. Cooper’.’ He had felt guilty about lying to me…I finally had my suspicions confirmed,’ said Laurin, who spent the next six years taping extensive conversations with Reca, which detail every aspect of the crime and the fantastic life he lived after he got away with it.

‘He knew that he had one foot in the grave so to speak…he’d had time to review his life… Walter never wanted to hurt anybody and there were people that he’d hurt along the way, and he felt very sorry about that, I think he wanted to find some kind of peace with it all,’ said Laurin.

Reca also gave Laurin a mountain of evidence to support his story, including the thermal Long Johns he had worn under his clothes to jump from the plane.

Laurin took the evidence to be analyzed by Joe Koenig, a certified fraud examiner, forensic linguist and independent private investigator who has worked on high-profile cases in cooperation with the FBI for 50 years. Among his cases have been the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa.

‘I analyzed the available documents, interviewed key witnesses, and evaluated all the available evidence to assess its value, its credibility, its believably,’ said Koenig, 72. 

He added: ‘I compared our information and evidence to the FBI’s…I believe that Walter Peca, aka Walter Reca, is D.B. Cooper.’

Koenig confirms that some of Laurin’s audio recordings include Reca discussing details of the skyjacking that he could not have known unless he was there – such as the fact that ‘Cooper’ used superglue to conceal his fingerprints and that he offered a handful of money to the stewardess before he jumped, which she refused.

The FBI only made such details of the case public in 2015, but Laurin has cassette recordings of Reca telling him these things between 2008 and 2014.

In one recording obtained by DailyMail.com, Laurin asked Reca about the contents note he gave a stewardess during the hijacking. 

‘I can’t remember… This is a hijack and I’ve got explosives,’ Reca recalled. ‘So I did hand her the note and she kind of put it in her pocket. She said “I can’t believe you’re actually hijacking this airplane”. I said “I can’t believe it either but I’m serious”.’

While DB Cooper was never found, Reca was alive and well long after the hijacking. One of his expired passports from the 1980s is pictured above

While DB Cooper was never found, Reca was alive and well long after the hijacking. One of his expired passports from the 1980s is pictured above

Reca was also issued a British passport while he was working as an operative for governments around the world he told Laurin, offering this document, claiming he had been born in the Lincolnshire fishing port of Grimsby as evidence

Reca was also issued a British passport while he was working as an operative for governments around the world he told Laurin, offering this document, claiming he had been born in the Lincolnshire fishing port of Grimsby as evidence

Reca is pictured above in the mid-1970s, several years after the hijacking he is said to have admitted to carrying out

Reca is pictured above in the mid-1970s, several years after the hijacking he is said to have admitted to carrying out

Reca is pictured above during his years as a government operative in the mid-1970s

Reca is pictured above during his years as a government operative in the mid-1970s

Reca said that he wanted all used $20 – a request that wasn’t fulfilled – and had gave messages to the cockpit through a stewardess. 

Before jumping from the plane, he asked for two parachutes and for the wheels to be lowered to ‘slow down the aircraft’. 

He said that he requested two parachutes and opened one in the plane to ensure it worked properly before jumping. 

Reca also confessed to his niece Lisa Story in 2012.

‘I wasn’t actually that surprised when I found out,’ said Story, who is now 56 and a communications manager in Las Vegas, Nevada.

‘It seemed incredibly likely, because of the life Walt had led…he was also never the type to brag or exaggerate about his life…I always trusted what he said.’ 

Reca was in trouble with the law before. In 1965, he robbed a Big Boy restaurant on 8 Mile Road in Detroit, Michigan.

After his arrest, he jumped bail and fled the state but was later extradited back to Michigan.

He was ultimately given probation, thus avoiding a prison sentence.

Once drafted into a life of covert activity, Reca became something of a man without a country, even though he could move freely around the world with his passports and IDs from multiple sources.

Reca told Laurin he never knew exactly whom he had been working for, stating cryptically, ‘I worked for all of them’. 

He also told Laurin that he successfully used his purported KGB ID card, which bears his photo and a hologram, to gain access to places associated with his underworld ‘jobs’. 

Reca’s niece, Lisa Story, said that during the period of time her uncle was involved with gemstone mining in Sierra Leone, he would send diamonds home to Michigan.

In February, investigators claimed that evidence proved Cooper was the man they had long pinned the hijacking on, Vietnam veteran Robert W Rackstraw. At the time, a team of sleuths said they had uncovered a secret coding in five different notes (pictured above) supposedly sent by Cooper that ties his identity to Rackstraw

In February, investigators claimed that evidence proved Cooper was the man they had long pinned the hijacking on, Vietnam veteran Robert W Rackstraw. At the time, a team of sleuths said they had uncovered a secret coding in five different notes (pictured above) supposedly sent by Cooper that ties his identity to Rackstraw

Investigator Tom Colbert revealed that his code-breaker had uncovered the new hidden messages in four other taunting notes sent by Cooper in the late 1970s, including the one above

Investigator Tom Colbert revealed that his code-breaker had uncovered the new hidden messages in four other taunting notes sent by Cooper in the late 1970s, including the one above

Colbert said two forensics experts said the handwriting from the letter (right) was so similar to the writing on Cooper's boarding card (left) that it was 'likely' that they 'were written by one person'

Colbert said two forensics experts said the handwriting from the letter (right) was so similar to the writing on Cooper’s boarding card (left) that it was ‘likely’ that they ‘were written by one person’

Coding in this note, which was sent on November 30, 1971, said: 'IF CATCH I AM CIA… RWR'. Investigators believe the 'RWR' in the coding is Rackstraw's initials

Coding in this note, which was sent on November 30, 1971, said: ‘IF CATCH I AM CIA… RWR’. Investigators believe the ‘RWR’ in the coding is Rackstraw’s initials

Airline maintenance worker demonstrates the 'Cooper vane', installed in all 727 airplanes following the hijacking

Airline maintenance worker demonstrates the ‘Cooper vane’, installed in all 727 airplanes following the hijacking

She didn’t know the back story but thought Reca must have been getting paid very well as an overseas construction worker and that he was probably leading an exciting life.

After leaving his life of clandestine activity, Reca returned to Michigan and opened an illicit casino in his mother’s garage.

He also purchased a pizza restaurant for his children to run.

When the pizza business did not work out, Reca burned the establishment to the ground.

After that, he spent his days hanging out with his good friend Willard, drinking and enjoying a more normal life. 

This isn’t the first time investigators have claimed to know DB Cooper’s true identity.

In February, investigators claimed that evidence proved Cooper was the man they had long pinned the hijacking on, Vietnam veteran Robert W Rackstraw.

At the time, a team of sleuths said they had uncovered a secret coding in five different notes supposedly sent by Cooper that ties his identity to Rackstraw.

The investigators claimed that hidden messages in the coding indicate Rackstraw had a deep covert history with the CIA, which explains why the FBI closed their investigation without finding out the hijacker’s true identity.

Tom Colbert, the lead investigator of the 40-person cold case team, revealed his findings outside the J Edgar Hoover Building in Washington DC.

He said the evidence points to a conclusion that the FBI was guilty of ‘stonewalling, covering up evidence and flat-out lying for decades’.

Investigators questioned Rackstraw about the Cooper case in 1978 and eliminated him as a suspect. 

When Colbert first publicly named and linked Rackstraw to the hijacking, the veteran’s lawyer called the accusations ‘the stupidest thing I ever heard’.

Laurin reveals all in his new book, D.B. Cooper & Me: A Criminal, A Spy, My Best Friend

Laurin reveals all in his new book, D.B. Cooper & Me: A Criminal, A Spy, My Best Friend

Rackstraw had an illustrious military career as a pilot in the 1st Cavalry Division – one of the first major American air assault divisions.

It was there that Rackstraw learned to parachute and was given two Distinguished Flying Crosses for his performance while in the air – but he was kicked out of the army after they discovered he had lied about dropping out of high school and attending two colleges.

Colbert believes the military gave him all the skills he needed to pull off the extraordinary heist.

The FBI revealed in July 2016 that they were closing the investigation, saying that Cooper – whose real identity has never been confirmed by authorities – died of exposure in the woods between Oregon and Washington after jumping from the plane. 



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