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Canada's First Successful Plane Hijacking

On Dec. 26, 1971, Patrick Dolan Critton, boarded Air Canada DC-9 Flight 932, in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Armed with a handgun and a grenade, he threatened the cabin crew as it headed for Toronto.
Patric Dolan Critton
Patric Dolan Critton
A stewardess stated that the plane from Thunder Bay was only 20 minutes from Toronto International Airport when, the armed hijacker passed a note that read: "Think. We have fragmentary grenades, and a .38 calibre revolver. Take me to the captain. We're going to Havana. This is no joke." She was quoted as saying, "He was holding the gun in his right hand and the grenade in the other hand." They determined his name since Critton had brazenly brandished his own passport and chatted up the flight attendants with stories about being wanted for a bank robbery where his friends were killed. The passengers were not aware the plane was being hijacked

The plane landed in Toronto and the passengers were allowed to disembark the plane before it was rerouted to José Martí Airport in Havana, Cuba, with all six members of the crew and Critton aboard. Once in Havana, he exited and the plane flew back to Toronto. No one was hurt in the hijacking. Canada did not have an extradition agreement with Cuba regarding hijacking.

After landing, he was arrested by Cuban authorities and spent about eight months in a Cuban jail before going to work as a sugar cane cutter on the island. Following that time, he stayed in the country for two years cutting sugar cane. He then moved to Tanzania in East Africa, where he became an African history professor, married and had two sons. He remained there for almost twenty years. In 1991, he received a passport from the United States Embassy in Tanzania. He was too afraid to travel, however, and did not return to the United States until later

In 1994 the economy in Africa was crashing, when he returned to New York where his passage through customs was problem free. He then re-entered his old profession of teaching, in New York City. Shortly after the hijacking, fingerprints taken from a can of ginger ale he was believed to have touched, were recovered. The Canadian and United States federal authorities identified the fingerprints as belonging to Patrick Dolan Critton, a teacher in Westchester County, New York and a black-power revolutionary wanted by the police for armed robbery.

On July 29, 1971, when he was 24, Critton allegedly acting as a lookout for four other men robbed a Bankers Trust branch at Broadway and 94th Street Manhattan. They took 12 hostages before the robbery led to a frantic gun battle with the police. The gang attempted to flee using hostages as human shields. Critton managed to escape while, two of the other participants were captured, one was wounded and the other killed. He then fled to Canada, where he continued in a life of crime.

Critton allegedly also worked in a covert explosives factory on the Lower East Side, where the police said he made pipe bombs along with other members of a black liberation group, "the Republic of New Africa". This building exploded in 1970, killing one man and critically injuring another. Investigators said they discovered Black Panther literature in the wreckage. While Critton and his cohorts knocked off banks to raise funds for their cause, the Lehman College graduate also was teaching at Public School 258 in Brooklyn.

In 2001, the a unit in Peel Regional Police in Ontario had been investigating cold cases. Detective Donald Jorgensen, an investigator assigned to the unit, pulled out the 1971 hijacking file, one of the oldest case they had. He began his work with a basic internet search. He typed the words Patrick Critton into an Internet search engine. Almost instantly, he located a March 2001 newspaper clipping in The Journal-News of Westchester County in which Patrick Critton was mentioned in an article about mentoring black youth. The article said that Mr. Critton was the director of the Community School Initiative in Mount Vernon.

The F.B.I. and N.Y.P.D. Joint Terrorist Task Force, was contacted and Mr. Critton was put under police surveillance in New York. Investigators quickly noticed that they seemed to have found a perfect fit. Mr. Critton who was wanted for the hijacking had briefly been a public-school teacher in Brooklyn after graduating from Hunter College in 1969, and that the Mr. Critton in Mount Vernon was working as a summer schoolteacher at the A. B. Davis Middle School there.

Mr. Critton's home was staked out. Investigators knew the route he took on his weekday walk from his apartment to his summer teaching job at the middle school. On Aug. 15, 2001, detectives posted themselves along the route, putting up fliers of a missing girl from the Bronx. When Mr. Critton walked by them that morning, a detective handed him a photograph. Our detective said, "Hey mister, have you ever seen this little girl?" He touched the photo and handed it back, leaving his fingerprints. The forensics results came back and the prints on the missing girl's photograph matched prints on the ginger ale can that the hijacker handled in 1971 and also matched sets from the Board of Education files, taken when he took the first teaching job. Canadian investigators flew to New York with the warrant and extradition papers, where Mr. Critton was arrested without incident on Saturday at his first-floor apartment on Claremont Avenue in Mount Vernon.

"What took you so long? I've been waiting for that knock on the door for seven years," the 54-year-old Critton said as cops slapped cuffs on his wrists, according to NYPD Inspector Charles Wells, one of the arresting detectives. Following his arrest, law enforcement sources said, the slight, bespectacled 5'4" tall schoolteacher confessed to committing six other bank heists as well as supplying weapons to black radicals linked to several bombings that occurred that same year. Since 1995, he had taught black studies at the ABC Middle School in Mount Vernon and tutored teens in a Westchester youth shelter. He was living in New York under his own name and using his own Social Security Number. Police described him as polite, helpful and accommodating.

He was arraigned in Manhattan Federal Court and ordered held without bail where he was charged with, kidnapping, armed robbery and extortion. Following a plea by his lawyer he received a five-year prison sentence for his crimes. Critton was released after serving a year.

Following his release in the United States, he was extradited to Canada where, he was charged with kidnapping. In 1971 there was no offence of hijacking in the Canadian Criminal Code. He was sentenced to five years in prison but was released on parole after serving two years.

Following serving that time, he dropped out of sight and there is no record of his whereabouts although, it is rumored that he returned to Tanzania.

Page Updated on 2016/12/05

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