New Zealand’s only convicted plane hijacker, jailed for nine years for stabbing two pilots during a hijack attempt in a bid to reach Australia, is now due for release and is reportedly threatening to hijack another aircraft.
Asha Abdille, a Somali refugee, took three knives with her onto an Air New Zealand domestic flight from Blenheim to Christchurch in February 2008. Claiming to be carrying a bomb in her bag, she tried to force the pilots to fly to Australia. When told the small 19-seater plane did not have enough fuel, she suggested they fly into the sea instead.
A depositions hearing in December 2008 was told that Abdille wanted to make the plane fly to Australia or to make it crash and kill everyone aboard.
The flight crew persuaded Abdille to let the plane land in Christchurch, where the pilot and first officer overpowered the Somali woman. The pilot, who received cuts to both hands and his back during the struggle, required extensive surgery to reattach muscles, tendons and a nerve. The first officer received a cut foot. A passenger was wounded.
Abdille, who is currently confined in a Wellington psychiatric unit, is due for release early next month, on 7 February 2017.
Radio New Zealand (RNZ) has reported that Abdille refused to attend her final Parole Board hearing last month. A written summary of the hearing, obtained by RNZ, said Abdille was still classified as high risk, as she had said “that she will attempt to hijack another plane and has threatened to set herself on fire”.
Hospital staff held “ongoing concerns about potential risky behaviour in the community on any release”, the Parole Board noted. RNZ said Abdille was likely to transfer into New Zealand’s mental health system on a compulsory treatment order (CTO) when her sentence ended next month.
New Zealand took in Abdille as a refugee from war-torn Somalia. After arrival in her new country, Abdille ran up convictions for threatening to pour petrol over a member of the Red Cross and throwing a bucket of excrement over a police officer.
At Abdille’s trial in 2010 for the attempted hijacking, Judge Christine French noted that the starting point for sentencing was 15 years. However the judge reduced it to nine years because of Abdille’s guilty plea and her background of mental health issues.
Written by : Peter Needham