Jack Graham’s troubled childhood led to a chilling plot...
On 1 November 1955, John Gilbert Graham, known to family and friends as Jack, drove his mother, Daisie King, his wife, Gloria, and their two children to the airport.
Daisie, 53, was off to Alaska to stay with her daughter – Jack’s half-sister – for the holidays.
Jack dropped his mother and family at the airport terminal and parked his car. Then he adjusted something in his mum’s suitcase before taking it to the check-in counter. Jack watched as the bag was tagged and disappeared to be loaded onto the plane. As Daisie boarded, Jack kissed her goodbye, then took his young son to the observation deck to wave his grandma off. At 6.52pm, later than expected, United Airlines Flight 629 took off from Stapleton Airport in Denver, Colorado. Horrifically, by 7.03pm, the bodies of the 44 people aboard, including Jack’s mother, were scattered over a field around 40 miles away. All passengers and crew were killed in an explosion, described as a fireball in the air. Jack was the first relative to call the UA’S office for details and was told all on board were presumed dead. ‘Well, that’s the way it goes,’ Jack said.
The FBI offered their services in what they assumed was a tragic accident.
But investigators reported smelling dynamite – and one set of luggage was more damaged than the others.
Personal items of passengers were recovered from the wreckage, including Daisie’s.
Among these were travellers cheques, letters, a cheque book and newspaper clippings on her family.
One of the articles talked about Daisie’s son, Jack Graham.
He’d been charged with forgery and was on the local ‘most wanted’ list in Denver County back in 1951.
Now suspicious, police did some digging, even interviewed Jack and Gloria.
They soon discovered a deadly rift between Jack and Daisie.
On 17 November 1955, Jack was charged with murder.
What made him so desperate to be rid of his mother he was willing to kill 43 innocent people along with her?
Jack, born in January 1932, was Daisie’s second child from her second marriage. Jack’s father died of pneumonia when the boy was very young.
Penniless Daisie was forced to abandon her son to an orphanage.
When she remarried four years on, she didn’t go back for Jack.
Distraught, he ran away several times to be with his mother but, every time, she returned him to the orphanage.
One year on, Daisie brought Jack home to celebrate Christmas and bought him a pony.
The little boy was thrilled, assuming he’d be at home for good.
Only he was sent back to the children’s home after the Christmas period.
By 16, Jack was using forged identification documents to join the Coast Guard underage.
He was later found out and discharged, after going absent for over a month.
Within the next three years, he forged $4,305 (nearly £3,000) in cheques, and got a two-month jail term for bootlegging and running a police roadblock at 100mph.
Daisie paid off most of Jack’s cheque-forgery debt and he was given probation. She even set up a drive-in restaurant for Jack to work in but, in September 1955, a gas explosion damaged it.
Police suspected arson, but couldn’t prove it, and Jack walked away with a $1,200 (around £800) insurance claim.
Next Jack tried to collect more insurance money when he drove his car onto a railroad track and leapt out seconds before impact.
But then it seemed he’d turned
Jack wanted his mother out of his life – for good
All 44 people on board were killed