Today in New Delhi, India
Apr 23, 2019-Tuesday
New Delhi
  • Humidity
  • Wind

Ex-hijacker keeps his word

A former mercenary who tried to hijack a plane in '81, meets the pilot and a crew member, reports Aditya Ghosh.

india Updated: Oct 15, 2006 13:07 IST
Aditya Ghosh
Aditya Ghosh

Three unlikely people met on Saturday. One was a former mercenary and the other two were part of the crew of the civilian aeroplane he had tried to hijack in 1981.

Peter Daffy had threatened to kill Air-India pilot Umesh Saxena and 79 other passengers on November 25, 1981, when he hijacked a Boeing 707 from the Seychelles airport.

When he met him on Saturday, Daffy said it was not even a real hijack and was meant to only open an escape route for them.

Saxena did not agree. The captain of the flight to Mumbai from Harare in Zimbabwe said it did not feel like anything other than a hijack. But he and Ulka Kothare, his crew, did agree with Daffy on many other things.

The debate did not sour the unique get-together. Saxena was grateful to Daffy for The Seychelles Affair, a book by Mike Haore who led the failed coup.

Daffy said: “I told him (Saxena) we will meet again and we did,” he said. “We Scots do not go back on promises.”

Daffy said events overtook the 50-odd mercenaries on the night of the hijack, when they discovered the Seychelles military had a stronger base just outside the airport.

“Also, we had to engage in a gun battle at the airport much earlier than planned. A colleague's bag was searched and his AK-47 was detected,” Daffy said.

He claimed that they took over the passenger plane purely as an escape attempt after everything went horribly wrong. He said it was not technically a hijack as no terror tactics had been involved.

“And we even paid for our drinks on board with our travellers' cheques,” he said. Ulka confirmed: “They did offer us payment but we, as a goodwill gesture, did not charge them.”

“After boarding the aircraft, we asked some passengers to even hold our guns while we settled down. After which we dumped all the weapons in a washroom,” Daffy said.

Daffy served a 21-month term for “man-stealing” and air piracy after Saxena deposed in a special court at Seychelles. But the hijacker does not hold any grudges.

“He did what he thought was morally correct. He was a fine professional — even told us the exact number of vacant seats in the flight and how many mercenaries he could carry,” Daffy said.

First Published: Oct 15, 2006 02:57 IST