A U.S. Navy diver beaten and slain aboard a hijacked TWA jetliner said he hoped the hijackers would kill him instead of his married Navy comrades, a witness testified today.
Robert Stethem made the remark after two Shia Muslim air pirates beat him so savagely he was in shock, said Rosemarie Anne Henderson, a passenger aboard Flight 847.
“The young man (Stethem) was crying. He was unable to walk by himself,” said Henderson, an Australian who was traveling with her husband and daughter.
She said Mohammed Ali Hamadi led Stethem down the plane’s aisle, told her husband to get out of his seat and put Stethem next to her.
Hamadi is on trial on charges of murder and air piracy in the June, 1985, hijacking of the Athens-to-Rome flight in which Stethem was killed and 39 Americans were held captive for 17 days.
Henderson, 52, said that she later switched seats with her daughter and that her daughter talked to Stethem at length.
“He said to her that if anyone would have to be killed, he hoped it would be him because the others (the five fellow divers) were all married,” said Henderson, her voice breaking with emotion.
“He was in shock. He also had a bandage around his neck. It had blood on it,” she said.
“He said he thought his knee was broken. He told her he had been tied up and that when they finished beating him, he was hit over the head with the pistol.
“He was shaking. He said some of his ribs were broken.”
Motioning with her hands, Henderson said Stethem kept rubbing an injured hand.
“He said he had no feeling (in it),” she said.