Woman Who Caused United Flight Disturbance Sent to Mental Hospital

A woman whose actions aboard a London-to-Washington flight provoked a security scare will be held indefinitely at a residential mental health facility in New Hampshire, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

Catherine Mayo, 59, of Braintree, Vt., has been in federal custody since Aug. 17, when United Flight 923 was diverted to Boston after Mayo urinated on the floor of the cabin and made statements that the pilot and crew believed were references to Al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 attacks.

At a hearing Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate Timothy Hillman agreed with a defense request that Mayo be taken to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., and be put in the official custody of her 31-year-old son.

Mayo waived her right to a probable cause hearing on a charge of interfering with a flight crew. Her attorney, public defender Page Kelley, has said Mayo has a long history of mental illness.

Mayo said little during the hearing and did not audibly answer when the judge asked "Ms. Mayo, how are you today?"

During a break, as her lawyer was explaining the conditions of her detention, Mayo repeatedly interrupted her and said: "I did not commit any criminal act. I am not responsible for the federal government arresting me."

Mayo was to be held at the facility until her doctors determine it is safe for her to leave. At that time, her travel would be restricted to New Hampshire, her home state of Vermont and Massachusetts, if she has meetings with her lawyer. She would be subject to arrest if she leaves the center before treatment is finished.

The scare on the flight from Heathrow to Washington's Dulles airport came just a week after London authorities said they foiled a terror plot to blow up trans-Atlantic flights. Federal officials have said they have no indications that Mayo had any links to terrorism.

Joshua Mayo has described his mother as a peace activist and said she had been returning from several months in Pakistan when she was arrested. He said she has traveled there often since making a pen pal before Sept. 11, 2001.