THE two US flight attendants who tackled Richard Reid, the suspected shoe bomber, have revealed that they became suspicious after he refused to eat or drink on the long-haul flight from Paris to Miami.
Cristina Jones and Hermis Moutardier, whose actions are alleged to have saved the lives of 200 people on board Flight 63 on 22 December, 2001, said they became wary of the 6ft 4in passenger before spotting wires protruding from his shoe.
Following 11 September, flight attendants had swapped tips on how to spot potential terrorists.
Mrs Jones, 40, who still bears scars after being bitten by the British-born Reid, 29, had been warned about people refusing to eat on long flights, and she asked the suspected al-Qaeda operative three times if he wanted anything. She said: “Usually I think ‘Yeah. Less work for me,’ but something about him seemed strange,” she said.
Two hours after leaving Paris, passengers aboard the American Airlines plane started to smell smoke. Mrs Moutardier, 47, found Reid in a window seat trying to light a match and warned him not to smoke.
Moments later, she spotted him bent over in his seat and, thinking he was smoking, she approached him again, but this time saw him with a wired shoe between his legs, holding a lit match.
She grabbed him twice and he pushed her away so hard that she fell against an arm-rest across the aisle. Mrs Jones then grabbed Reid, but he bit her hand.
Passengers started restraining Reid, while others handed over belts and headphone wires to tie him up. When the re-routed plane finally landed in Boston, the FBI had to cut Reid out of his chair.
Mrs Jones, of Tampa, Florida, said: “Most of it was instinct. I don’t believe I would have grabbed him the way I did had I not known about 11 September. I don’t know that the passengers would have come to my aid so quickly had they not known about 11 September.”
Mrs Moutardier, also from Florida, has been off work with injuries to her shoulder following the struggle. She said: “I know I was there that day, on that flight, for a reason. Now I need to get back to work, because I want to do what I love.”
The pair, both mothers, may testify at Reid’s trial, which is due to begin on 4 November in Boston.