Suspect in 1971 Air Canada hijacking arrested

Police arrest suspect in 1971 Air Canada hijacking

Nearly three decades after an Air Canada jet was hijacked to Cuba, police arrested a man who has been a model member of his New York community for the past seven years.

Patrick Dolan Critton, 54, has been arrested and charged with the 1971 hijacking of an Air Canada flight from Thunder Bay to Toronto. He was arrested without incident at his home in Mount Vernon. Police from Ontario, New York and the FBI co-operated in the investigation.

Police in Canada and the United States had been searching for Critton for 30 years. They found him living in New York under his own name and using his own Social Security Number.

Passengers never knew

On Dec. 26, 1971, a man armed with a handgun threatened the cabin crew of an Air Canada DC-9 as it headed for Toronto. The passengers were never aware the plane was being hijacked, and the flight landed as scheduled in Toronto.

After the passengers disembarked, the plane was refuelled and forced to fly to Havana with six crewmembers. Once there, the hijacker left in the custody of Cuban authorities.

No one was hurt in the hijacking.

Canada's extradition treaty with Cuba at the time didn't include hijacking, so the man was released, and the case languished.

The FBI said police took fingerprints from a soda can on the plane and Critton became a suspect. An arrest warrant was issued in January 1972 for his arrest on charges of kidnapping, armed robbery and extortion.

Ruse gets fingerprints

After learning through an Internet search that someone with his name was living in New York, Canadian police asked for help from U.S. authorities. They got Critton's fingerprints from a personnel file from an elementary school teaching job in 1969.

Then, police canvassed his neighbourhood asking residents to look at a photo of a missing child. After a man left fingerprints matching those in the personnel file and on the soda can, Critton was arrested.

He told police he was surprised no one had noticed when he returned to the United States in 1994 and resumed teaching. He has also worked for a nonprofit community organization and served as director of the Community School Initiative for Mount Vernon.

Critton is thought to have stayed in Cuba for three years, followed by 20 years in Tanzania.

In court on Monday, Critton was ordered held without bail.