17th May

Anne Marie Murphy’s Near Miss…

Nizar Hindawi & Anne Marie Murphy

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Writing about airport security, I came across this fascinating case:

On April 17th, 1986, Dublin woman Anne Marie Murphy arrived at Heathrow for an El Al flight to Tel Aviv.

Six months pregnant, she was travelling to Israel to meet her fiancé.

At check-in, Murphy, 32, was approached and questioned by a security officer (routine procedure on all El Al flights).

Nothing seemed unusual – Murphy was calm and, when asked whether she had been given anything to carry with her, responded in the negative.

When her baggage was checked, however, security officers unearthed a scientific calculator together with an electric cable. Her luggage was also unexpectedly heavy. Further examination revealed explosives concealed beneath a double panel in the bottom of her bag.

Murphy was arrested, but questioning soon revealed her innocence.

How could this be?

Two years previously, it transpired, Murphy had met Jordanian Nizar Hindawi. She was working as a chambermaid, he posed as a journalist, and they began a relationship.

After Murphy became pregnant with his child, Hindawi proposed marriage. The trip to Israel was suggested so that Murphy could meet his parents before they wed.

She agreed, and Hindawi gave her money for a passport and a plane ticket to Tel Aviv. Because he was a Jordanian Arab, he told her, his visa would take longer to organise, but he would overcome this by flying to Jordan and then travelling by land to meet her at Ben Gurion Airport.

Unbeknownst to Murphy, Hindawi had planted the explosives in her luggage. En route to the airport, he had rummaged in the bags, connecting a battery to the calculator, which served as a detonating device. It was set to explode two hours after take-off, killing 395 crew and passengers on board.

Hindawi was later apprehended, and alleged to be working with Syrian intelligence. He is reported to have been promised $250,000 for the mission, and to have been advised that a woman would be a better plant, because she would arouse less suspicion.

He was sentenced to 45 years.

Britain cut its ties with Syria as a result of the affair, and Prime Minister Shimon Peres later stated that if the attack had been successfully carried out, Israel would have gone to war with Syria.

Anne-Marie Murphy was not tried.