On 15 November 1972, the first aircraft hijacking in Australia happened on Ansett Airlines flight 232 from Adelaide to Alice Springs.
Ansett Australia Flight 232 was a trip from Adelaide, South Australia aboard a Fokker Friendship bound for Alice Springs, Northern Territory.
It was Australia’s first aircraft hijacking (after an attempted hijacking in 1960), and resulted in the perpetrator’s death by suicide.
A male passenger, subsequently identified as Miloslav Hrabinec, a Czech migrant, had boarded the flight in Adelaide with a concealed sawn-off .22 ArmaLite rifle and a sheath knife strapped to his leg.
About a half-hour before the scheduled landing time, as the flight was making its descent into Alice Springs Airport, he emerged from the lavatory, produced the gun and said to a flight attendant named Kaye Goreham, “This is a hijack”.
Hrabinec then forced his way into the cockpit, however the captain informed Hrabinec that he was unable to speak to him as he was too busy landing the plane.
Hrabinec was informed by Goreham that he needed to be seated for landing and he complied. After the plane landed police commenced negotiations with the hijacker.
According to Goreham’s account, Hrabinec stated his motive was not financial (he asked for no money) but that he wanted to commit suicide in a spectacular way by parachuting into a remote location and surviving for as long as he could before killing himself. To this end he demanded a light aircraft, a parachute and a jumpsuit.
A civilian pilot and flying instructor, the local Aero Club manager Ossie Watts, volunteered himself and his Cessna aircraft. An undercover police constable Paul Sandeman, posing as Watts’ navigator, was also on board the Cessna.
According to Kaye Goreham, Hrabinec became suspicious upon seeing Sandeman and requested Goreham search Sandeman for weapons. Goreham did so but did not inform the hijacker when she felt a small firearm Sandeman had hidden.
Goreham states that the policeman “went for his gun” and the hijacker shot Sandeman in the hand and stomach. The hijacker ran off and Watts, who had been shown how to use a gun minutes earlier, began shooting.
Police marksmen also opened fire and Hrabinec was wounded. Hrabinec then retreated to a ditch where he fatally shot himself.
Hrabinec was not identified as the hijacker until May 1973.
Constable Sandeman was awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery.
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