- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2006

BOSTON (AP) — A woman on a trans-Atlantic flight diverted to Boston for security concerns passed several notes to crew members, urinated on the cabin floor and made comments the crew believed were references to al Qaeda and the September 11 attacks, according to an affidavit filed today.

Catherine C. Mayo, 59, of Braintree, Vt., was to appear in federal court today on a charge of interfering with a flight crew after disrupting United Flight 923 as it flew from London to Washington yesterday.

The flight, with 182 passengers and 12 crew members, landed safely with the escort of two F-15s after the pilot declared an emergency onboard.

The scare came just a week after London authorities said they had foiled a terror plot to blow up trans-Atlantic flights. Federal officials quickly determined there were no indications of terrorism ties.

According to an affidavit by FBI special agent Daniel Choldin filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, flight attendants noticed Miss Mayo about 90 minutes into the flight because she was pushing against the aircraft bulkhead. When the attendant told her to return to her seat, Miss Mayo said she wanted to speak to an air marshal and made statements about knowing that people wanted to see what was in her bag.

FBI spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz today confirmed Thursday cwthat authorities found a screwdriver and an unspecified number of cigarette lighters in her bag, items that are banned under new security regulations. Miss Marcinkiewicz also confirmed that matches were found in Miss Mayo’s bag.

The woman also had a bottle of water, which did not appear to have been supplied by the flight crew. It wasn’t clear how the items had made it through airport security.

Since a foiled terror plot surfaced in London last week, airports have tightened security in both the United Kingdom and the U.S. Liquids and gels have been banned from carry-on luggage, and even tighter restrictions are in place in Britain. The terror plot apparently involved using such liquids to make and detonate bombs aboard planes.

Later during the flight, according to the affidavit, Miss Mayo asked a flight attendant: “Is this a training flight for United Flight 93?” The flight attendant didn’t know if she had made a mistake because the flight number was 923, or if she was referring to United Airlines Flight 93, the hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania on September 11.

During that time, Miss Mayo was “biting her fingers, rubbing her feet and in a constant state of movement. She appeared very agitated,” the affidavit says.

She wrote in a note and said to flight attendants that she had been in a country illegally and later said she had photographs of Pakistan.

“She stated that the photographs would be awful, and she indicated that they related to the people that she had been with in the mountains of Pakistan,” the affidavit says.

Her U.S. passport indicates that on Aug. 15 she left Pakistan and entered the United Kingdom, according to the affidavit. As many as 17 persons have been arrested in Pakistan in connection with the London terror plot.

Flight attendants summoned the captain, who spoke to Miss Mayo. During the conversation, she made reference to there being “six steps to building some unspecified thing.”

About 35 minutes later, when she tried to go to the bathroom, the flight attendants directed her to a different lavatory. Instead of going there, she pulled down her pants and urinated on the floor, agent Choldin wrote in the affidavit, which is based on his interviews and those of other federal officials.

At that point, the captain ordered her restrained. Two male passengers helped a flight attendant tackle Miss Mayo and restrain her in plastic cuffs. She remained seated in the galley area of plane until the flight landed, according to the affidavit.

Gov. Mitt Romney, Massachusetts Republican, said the woman was claustrophobic and became so upset she had to be restrained, and passengers said Miss Mayo appeared to have emotional problems.

“She was in a frenzy,” passenger Martin Drinkwater of London told the Boston Globe. “She then pulled her trousers and knickers down and squatted on the floor.”

Antony Nash, 31, of San Diego, said he grew nervous watching the muttering woman from a seat near him as she paced and made too many trips to the bathroom. The pilot did not make a general announcement to passengers of what was happening.

“I noticed F-15s next to the plane. I said, ‘Oh my God.’ And then we saw the emergency vehicles,” Mr. Nash said.

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