A man who threatened to blow up a Malaysia Airlines flight before being subdued by fellow passengers had a history of mental illness, Australian police said Thursday.
Flight MH128 to Kuala Lumpur from Melbourne was forced to turn back shortly after takeoff late Wednesday after a 25-year-old Australian citizen tried to enter the cockpit while claiming to have a backpack bomb, airline officials and police said.
“I can’t go into specifics at the moment, but it wasn’t an explosive device. What was in the backpack I would describe as a device,” Victoria Police Superintendent Tony Langdon said Thursday. “The contents of the backpack were such that they were able to get through [regular security checks] and the contents of it posed no threat.
The man was overpowered by crew members and passengers who used belts from their pants to tie his hands as the airliner returned to Melbourne. Australian counterterrorism police boarded the plane upon landing and the man was taken into custody.
Fellow passengers said the man charged toward the locked cockpit door shortly after takeoff at 11 p.m. They described the black device that he carried as having antennas and a wiring port. It resembled a boom box more than a bomb, said passenger Andrew Leoncelli, a former player in the Australian Football League who was interviewed on Melbourne radio.