Has taking a hostage EVER worked?

*Note to mods–I am not contemplating any illegal actions :slight_smile: *

So, I was watching “Once and Again” last night (no laughing–I was in a chick show kind of mood). The plot was about a disgruntled busboy who had something against the owner of a restaurant and took the entire restaurant hostage. It ended with him letting all the hostages go and shooting himself.

It got me to thinking. I’ve seen many, many films and tv programs that centered around the taking of one or more hostages, and it never seens to work. This makes sense–you’ve attached yourself to a person or group of people who don’t share your goals, the cops find out almost immediately, and because you are isolated, you are at the cops’ mercy to get the stuff you want.

So, are there any cases in which a criminal has taken one or more hostages, achieved his or her demands, gotten clean away, and never been killed or prosecuted?

This isn’t exactly an answer, but i can tell you that of all the times planes have been hijacked (does that count as taking hostages?) it’s only ever worked once. The perps disappeared into the mountains somewhere or other. Sorry this is so vague, it’s only from memory, but i could find a cite if it was important.


As a matter of fact, an American and a couple of other men from developed nations were just released from some captors in some South American jungle. The captors were some kind of extremist political group and they held the men for $13 million in ransom. They got it, and the men were set free.

Whenever extremist terrorist groups take hostages, they’re usually doing it for attention. And they almost always get the attention. So in that sense, taking a hostage almost always works.

That’d be D.B. Cooper.

Yes, Francesca, for the purposes of this question hijacking does count as taking hostages.

rastahomie, I’m not sure that in my mind political kidnapping is the same as taking a hostage, but admittedly there’s a fine line there. I can’t quite put my finger on what the difference is, but I think there is one. I suppose a lot of the Middle East hostage situations (Iran and Lebanon spring to mind) could be seen as situations in which hostage-taking worked because the perpetrators got away, but did they achieve their goals (which was one of my parameters)?

Ethilrist, I thought it had been pretty clearly established that DB Cooper died parachuting from the plane. If he didn’t, then yes, he was successful.

He held them hostage, got the money, got away from the plane, and they never got the money back. That he was an unsuccessful parachutist doesn’t negate the efficacy of the crime.

I was thinking of the 1970 kidnaping of James Cross in Montreal. They managed to negotiate a deal, which was honored, to be put on a plane to cuba. Kind of unique in the sense that the opportunity existed to welch on the deal.

We are sort of cheating here though.

There are a huge number of cases of bank robbers escaping with a hostage but its unclear in the stories that the taking of a hostage was instrumental in their escape. There are probably cases where the hostage got them by one or two cops. I have never heard of a successful negotiated escape though.

Well, I guess it isn’t cheating if the author the thread says we aren’t.

In retrospect the Cross kidnapping doesn’t really fit as they didn’t get their demands for 500k and the release of a number of prisoners. Its still a rather unique case, they got a full military escort to the airport and got on the plane unmolested. There were actually two kidnappings by two groups of the loosly organized FLQ. The second group who killed their hostage was caught and sentenced. One of them was recently appointed as a Judge. It has nothing to do with the thread but I felt the need to share.

Wasn’t it just last year that a hijacked plane was landed in Afghanistan and the terrorists pretty much just drove off into the sunset?

To clarify on the D.B. Cooper case: they never found him, alive or dead, but none of the money has ever turned up either, so he probably didn’t live long enough to spend any of it. However, I agree with Ethilrist that he’s still a successful hostage-taker because he got the money and the parachutes and got away from the authorities.

As for Muslim airline hijackers, the ones that can get to Iran or Afganistan can usually just walk away from the plane free and clear.

I found a pretty interesting page on what to do if you are taken hostage. While I consider this sort of hostage taking–really kidnapping–to be very different from an unplanned hostage taking used as a device for escape, this might be illuminating.

"From research of 262 incidents, we have found that 61% ended in payment of a ransom, while other hostages escaped or were rescued. In 26 cases, the hostage did not return safely.

Statistical breakdown:

a. Ransom payment 61%

b. Rescue by police 21%

c. Death 10%

d. Release without concession 6%

e. Escape 2%"

This same page also offered one very good piece of advice:

“Avoid being drawn into arguments with captors, invariably difficult hostages are the first to be executed.”

Words to live by.

I think you have to distinguish between kidnapping and hostage taking; the big difference is whether the authorities know where you and the abductees are. Hijacking is a slightly different case of hostage taking because the people in question are mobile. I think the OP was asking, “has anyone cornered in a building ever escaped by holding hostages?”. I doubt it.

This may be the first time for a Hijacking hijack, but, to continue with it, I heard a story on NPR a few months ago about a woman who believes that she was married to D.B. Cooper. The guy was ran a small business of some kind in Florida. It sounded plausible, if not convincing.

haven’t you seen “The Chase” with charlie sheen. not only did he get away he got the chick

I believe a small amount of the DB Cooper money was found burried near the drop zone. It was too decayed for spending. Most of the cash is still unaccounted for.

Yes, about $5,800 (out of $200,000) was found on a sandbar of the Columbia River near Vancouver WA. This was quite a ways downstream from where Cooper bailed out, which they figure was in the Lewis River valley. IIRC, the place they found the money was actually a little ways upstream from the confluence of the Columbia and Lewis Rivers.

It’s unlikely that Cooper put the money on that bar. Most likely it washed down from some mountain stream where it fell after he dropped it trying to get the parachutes to work. But that’s just my guess.