Were 44 deaths a tragic accident or something more sinister?
In the departure lounge of Stapleton Airport, Denver, Daisie E King waved goodbye to her family, before boarding United Airlines flight 629.
It was November 1955 and Daisie was flying to Portland, Oregon, to visit her daughter in Alaska. Her son, Jack Graham, 23, his wife Gloria and their two young children had come to say goodbye.
But just six minutes into the flight, there was a deafening bang. The plane was a raging inferno, plummeting to Earth. No-one could’ve survived.
Poor Jack Graham and his mum Daisie had a strange history. After his father died when he was 3, she’d struggled with money and was forced to put Jack in an orphanage. After six years, she remarried, and took Jack back.
Now, aged 24, he’d grown into a family man and businessman. Because after Daisie’s second and third husbands had both died, she’d invested in a new diner with Jack.
But now, police tried to work out how a new plane had suddenly exploded. The dead totalled 44. Their burnt bodies littered the area.
For weeks, experts trawled every piece of the evidence. And finally, they found a minuscule scrap of metal, different to the metal of the plane. It was covered in the remains of dynamite.
So this hadn’t been a tragic accident – it’d been a bomb planted in someone’s luggage. Airport records soon showed who the bag belonged to. Daisie E King. Police started investigating.
Colleagues at the diner spoke of endless arguments between Daisie and Jack – him never forgiving his mum for abandoning him as a child. His sister said she was scared of Jack’s temper.
Then, someone mentioned an unexplained small explosion in the back of the restaurant a few weeks earlier.
A local shop said that they’d sold Jack some wires and timing devices. Then Jack’s wife Gloria said she’d seen him carrying a parcel to the basement where Daisie had been staying with them on the day of the flight.
A search of Jack’s home found some copper wires matching some found in the wreckage. Then police found life insurances – in Daisie’s name but taken out by Jack at the airport. Naming him as the beneficiary of around £23,000 – a fortune in the 50s!
In November 1955, police arrested Jack Graham for sabotage and murder. The charge was only of murdering his mother, not the other innocent victims.
For then no crime existed for killing on such a massive scale. Jack shocked cops by confessing all.
Jack quickly backtracked. First, he claimed insanity. That was dismissed, and he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.
Jack claimed he was innocent.
‘I only confessed because I wanted to cover up for Gloria,’ he claimed.
The case came to appeal, saying the police forced him to confess. But the court wasn’t having any of it.
So on 11 January 1957, Jack Graham went to the gas chamber.
By Rachel Tompkins