The white 35ft yacht could have been one of dozens cruising into Mobile Bay, Alabama, on a spring morning in 2006, but FBI agents standing on the quayside knew differently. Acting on a tip-off they jumped aboard as soon as the yacht came alongside, flourished a warrant and started a bow-to-stern search. The result: 40lb of cocaine hidden in a locker — and four would-be illegal immigrants who had each paid $6,000 for the trip from Colombia. The balding 60-year-old who had chartered the yacht was unwilling to admit to any wrong-doing and even more reluctant to disclose his name.
Which was hardly surprising: 40 years earlier Gary Krist had masterminded the $1 million kidnapping of the daughter of one of America's richest men — and very nearly got away with it. The story of the crime that shocked a nation began in December 1968 when Mrs Jane Mackle and her 20-year-old daughter Barbara Jane were staying in the Rodeway Inn Motel in Atlanta, Georgia, while Barbara Jane recovered from a bout of flu. She was a student at nearby Emory University but had left temporarily out of consideration for her roommates and her mother was nursing her back to health before they flew back to the family home in Florida for the holidays.
The doorbell rang. Assuming it was room service, Mrs Mackle opened the door. The next moment a thick-set young man in a black leather jacket burst in brandishing a sawn-off shotgun. He was followed by a woman wearing a ski-mask. Mrs Mackle was quickly bound hand and foot and gagged with adhesive tape. Barbara Jane, still in a flannel nightgown, was dragged from the room.
After a few minutes Mrs Mackle managed to reach the door and raise the alarm. Not surprisingly, senior detectives and FBI agents were quickly on the scene: the missing girl's father was Robert F. Mackle, one of America's richest men and a close friend of President Richard Nixon. But the girl and her abductors had vanished. Two days later after Mrs Mackle had returned to the family home in Coral Gables, Florida came the first phone call. A male voice gave instructions that under a tree in the grounds of the Mackle mansion was a note giving detailed instructions which must be followed if Barbara Jane was to be returned unharmed.
The three-page note demanded a $1 million ransom which must be packed in a suitcase of specified length and depth. The family should then put an advertisement in the Miami Herald saying they were awaiting further instructions.
Under FBI supervision this was done. Two days later Robert Mackle took a phone call with further instructions but this time he told no one. Instead, he took the suitcase containing $1 million and drove to an uninhabited island in Biscayne Bay and as instructed, lowered it over a sea-wall at low tide. Then he returned home to await word of his daughter's release. Then followed an unseen sequence of events which wrecked everyone's plans. A local police sheriff patrolling the area saw two people behaving suspiciously near a parked car.
One was carrying a suitcase and one what looked like a rifle. As he approached they ran away and the man with the gun opened fire. The sheriff returned the shots and the pair disappeared into undergrowth leaving the bag behind. It contained $1 million. Confessing to the FBI what he had done, Robert Mackle asked agents to put out a statement assuring the kidnappers that he had nothing to do with the unfortunate events and that he still wanted to cooperate for his daughter's safe return.
Meanwhile an old Volvo estate car was found near where the money had been left and its registration plates traced to a man named George Deacon working as a technician at a Miami marine institute and living with his wife and two children in a caravan park in the city. Further checking showed that Deacon was in fact an alias used by 23-year-old Gary Steven Krist, a convict who had escaped in November 1966. During the break-out, Krist's companion had been shot and killed.
Evidence found in the Volv