A letter newly released from the FBI's archives may prove that DB Cooper - the 1971 hijacker last seen leaping out of a plane with a fortune in cash - survived his apparent death.
The letter, which was sent 17 days after the hijacking appears to contain information that was not released into the public domain until 13 years later.
A man fitting this description and calling himself Dan Cooper hijacked a plane in November 1971 then parachuted out over Washington woods with the money dressed in just a suit
It's been claimed that he died, but this letter - newly released after a Freedom of Information suit filed with the FBI - was sent soon after the hijacking and appears to reveal that Cooper survived the fall as it contains details - like the lack of fingerprints - kept from the public
The hijacking occurred on November 24, 1971, when a man calling himself Dan Cooper boarded a Boeing 727 at Portland Airport and announced shortly after takeoff that he was holding a bomb.
The plane was grounded at Seattle-Tacoma airport until authorities produced $200,000 in cash - the equivalent of $1,213,226 today - and Cooper released the passengers.
But he kept some of the crew on board and forced them to take off before opening up the back of the plane and parachuting out over the forests of Washington, clutching the money and clad only in a suit.
The FBI ultimately concluded that Cooper - whose real name is unknown - died of exposure, and last year they closed the case.
But a team of around 40 private investigators led by TV and film executive Thomas Colbert and his wife Dawna believe that Cooper is alive - and told DailyMail.com they have the evidence to prove it.
They successfully sued the FBI and have obtained reams of previously undisclosed information about the case, including a series of five letters purportedly written by Cooper to the authorities.
Four of those letters were already known to the public, but now a fifth letter has been produced. And Colbert says it proves the existence of an FBI cover-up.
A memo that was released last month referring to the letter had Cooper's name redacted - proof, independent investigator Tom Colbert claims, that they're embarrassed about Cooper evading their grasp and want to hide the evidence
Cooper hijacked the plane (pictured) while in the air, exchanged the money for passengers at Tacoma airport then had crew fly it up so that he could parachute away
THE NEWLY RELEASED 'DB COOPER LETTER'
I knew from the start that I wouldn't be caught.
I didn't rob Northwest Orient because I thought it would be romantic, heroic or any of the other euphemisms that seem to attach themselves to situations of high risk.
I'm no modern day Robin Hood. Unfortunately do have only 14 months to live.
My life has been one of hate, turmoil, hunger and more hate. This seemed to be the fastest and most profitable way to gain a few fast grains of peace of mind.
I don't blame people for hating me for what I've done, nor do I blame anybody for wanting me to be caught and punished, though this can never happen.
Here are some (not all) of the things working against the authorities:
I'm not a boasting man
I left no fingerprints
I wore a toupee
I wore putty make-up
They could add or subtract from the composite a hundred times and not come up with an accurate description; and we both know it.
I've come and gone on several airline flights already and am not holed up in some obscure backwoods town.
Neither am I a psycho-pathic killer. As a matter of fact I've never even received a speeding ticket.
Thank you for your attention.
Copies of the typewritten letter were sent to The Seattle Times, The New York Times, The LA Times and The Washington Post.
It begins 'I knew from the start that I wouldn't be caught,' and apparently sees Cooper explaining exactly why the police will never catch him.
Among those reasons is that 'I left no fingerprints.'
For Colbert, who obtained the letter in his most recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) package, that admission was an eye-opener.
'This was the biggest secret of the whole investigation, not revealed until two FBI agents wrote books in 1984 and 1991 and discreetly mentioned it,' Colbert explains.
'"No fingerprints of value" were recovered anywhere Cooper was in the aircraft, including on his drinking cup. The only man outside the Bureau to know that would be Cooper.
'And, I might add, none were found on this fifth DBC letter or the earlier four. Highly unlikely we have two separate Coopers with the same meticulous habit.'
The letter also ends 'Thank you for your attention' - a phrase similar to the 'Thank you' message that conclude the first two letters.
Four other letters had been sent previously; this is the first. The 'Thanks for hospitality' message is similar to the 'Thank you' message in the newly released letter
This second letter - the only handwritten one - also has a 'thanks' sign-off. Handwriting experts say the writing matches 'Cooper's' flight card, but the FBI discounted all of the letters
That constituted a 'thought pattern' indicating that the letters were likely all written by the same man, according to retired FBI Special Agent Dorwin 'Dory' Schreuder, who worked the Cooper case in the 1980s and is now on Colbert's team.
Were these clues? The FBI seemed to think so, Colbert said, as it went to all four of the papers the letter was sent to and retrieved their copies before burying them in their files.
The scan of the letter provided to Colbert by the FBI also has an 'EVIDENCE' stamp - unlike its predecessors, which suggests that it was being taken more seriously by the authorities.
The FBI also began to look for a bald man for the first time after the letter was sent, matching its claim that Cooper 'wore a toupee'.
Descriptions of Cooper by those who saw him in the plane also suggest that he may have indeed been wearing a wig and putty - or at least makeup - as a disguise.
And yet, said Colbert, the letter was never made public knowledge beyond a couple of brief reports in the newspapers that played it off as a prank.
No fingerprints were found on any of the letters, of which this was the third. The FBI had tested the letters against the Zodiac Killer's missives, but no link was found
In fact, he said the FBI continued to try to hide the letter to the extent that an FBI memo about the letter given to the team in last month's FOIA dump had the only reference to Cooper redacted from it.
Colbert added that the other four letters, though officially 'discounted' by the FBI, were taken seriously at the time.
So much so that J Edgar Hoover himself was keeping tabs on the search for the letters' author. He even had the printing on their envelopes, along with the only letter that was handwritten compared with those of the Zodiac Killer (who, thankfully, was not a match).
Colbert added that he and his wife hired two forensics experts - one a past president of the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners, the other an ex-FBI agent - to examine the one handwritten note.
That handwriting is so similar to the writing on Cooper's boarding card, the two men said, that it was 'likely' that they 'were written by one person.'
Colbert also feels that the FBI has been too hasty to wrap up the investigation, and has been unduly reluctant to reopen it.
In August, his team found what they believe to be a parachute strap and foam padding from skydiver's backpack in the forests near Cooper's alleged jump location. They turned over the two items, along with the dig site itself, to the FBI.
In addition, Colbert said two potential escape partners - both still alive - were identified during the research. The contacts for those men were likewise delivered to the feds.
But after three months of silence, the team's attorney, Mark Zaid, believes the Bureau hasn't taken action on any of the team's efforts.
Colbert's team is now resuming digging in the area without federal help.
Colbert believes the letters were sent by Robert Rackstraw, and notes that two of the locations where they were sent are close to Rackstraw's family home
Colbert's team also found what they believe is a piece of a parachute (right) in a location where Cooper may have landed
Colbert's team (pictured; Colbert third from right) offered the strap to the FBI in the hopes that the investigation, which was closed in July, would be reopened - but it was not
When contacted, a spokesperson for the FBI's Seattle Office, Ayn S Dietrich-Williams, said: 'In July 2016, the FBI redirected resources allocated to the DB Cooper (NORJAK) case in order to focus on other investigative priorities.
'However, we asked that individuals contact the FBI if physical evidence emerges related specifically to the parachutes or the money taken by the hijacker.
'It would be inappropriate to comment on any specific tips provided to us in this case, however our continued posture is to review any physical items provided and pursue follow-up actions, as appropriate.'
Dietrich-Williams declined to answer any further questions about the suspected strap or dig site.
But if Cooper is alive, how did he escape exposure in the wild - and where is he now?
Colbert has dug up contemporary newspaper reports, eyewitness accounts and court-ordered FBI agent field notes that suggest other men were seen in a small plane in another airfield around the time of the hijacking.
He believes they picked up Cooper after he landed and flew under the radar to drop him off safely so that he could make his getaway.
Colbert believes - based on reports from the time and eyewitness accounts - that Cooper was picked up by accomplices and flown under the radar to his freedom
That story, he says, matches a claim made by a man at a pilot's club in at the now-closed Evergreen Field in Vancouver, who said in 1997 he heard the secret details of the getaway flight from an older flyer.
That flyer is now believed by Colbert to have been one of Cooper's escape partners.
And what of Cooper himself? Colbert believes he was a Vietnam veteran called Robert W Rackstraw Sr, now 74.
Rackstraw had an illustrious military career, being a pilot in the 1st Cavalry Division, one of the first major American air assault divisions.
It was there that Rackstraw learned to parachute, and was given two Distinguished Flying Crosses for his performance while in the air - but he was kicked out of the army after they discovered he'd lied about dropping out of high school and attending two colleges.
Colbert believes the military gave him all the skills he needed to pull off the extraordinary heist.
He also notes that the first and fourth letters sent by 'Cooper' were sent from Sacramento and Oakdale, California, both close to Rackstraw's family home.
In 1977, six years after the hijacking, Rackstraw was suspected of kiting checks for $75,000, but fled before arrest and went to Iran to teach the Shah's men how to fly helicopters.
Meanwhile, back at home, police raided his storage units and found 14 rifles and 150lbs of dynamite.
He lost his his Iran chopper job and he was brought back the USA, where he was arrested for fraud and the murder of his stepfather. Philip Rackstraw was found in the grounds of his parents' home with two bullets in his head.
Rackstraw was acquitted of murder and made bail on the fraud charge. Then he faked his death, pretending to crash his plane in the ocean at Monterey Bay, California.
He was found and taken in by the FBI, who believed he might be Cooper, but a lack of evidence and the sudden discovery of some of the hijack money in Washington - planted, Colbert says, by an accomplice - led to his release.
Rackstraw made a plea deal and after serving a year in prison for his Stockton convictions, he moved to Riverside, California.
There he taught a law course in mediation before retiring to his yacht, 'Poverty sucks'.
Is Rackstraw the greatest air criminal in American history? His lawyer has previously called the claims 'the stupidest thing I ever heard.'
Attempts to reach out to the lawyer again for this story were unsuccessful.
Colbert says Vietnam vet Robert Rackstraw (pictured after being arrested on forgery charges) is the culprit; Rackstraw's lawyer says that's 'stupid'