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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 February 2007, 17:52 GMT
Astronaut on murder plot charge
Florida police photo of Navy Capt Lisa Nowak
Ms Nowak says she did not intend to harm Ms Shipman
A US astronaut accused of attacking a woman she considered competition for the affection of a shuttle pilot has been charged with attempted murder.

Earlier a Florida court had ordered that Navy Capt Lisa Nowak, 43, who was facing charges of attempted kidnapping and battery, could be freed on bail.

However, the introduction of the more serious charge that she intended to murder Colleen Shipman reverses that.

A mother of three, Capt Nowak flew on the space shuttle Discovery last July.

Airport interception

The man at the centre of the love triangle was said to be Navy Cmdr William Oefelein, who was a pilot on the Discovery's mission to the space station in December.

Though he and Capt Nowak never flew on the same mission, they did train together.

According to her written police statement, Capt Nowak described her attachment to Cmdr Oefelein as "more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship".

Capt Nowak (right) and Cmdr William Oefelein
Capt Nowak and Cmdr William Oefelein trained together
Capt Nowak is understood to have thought that Ms Shipman was romantically involved with Cmdr Oefelein.

So, when she heard that her rival was due to fly from Texas to Florida, she decided to drive the 1,000 miles (1,600km) from her home in Houston to Orlando International Airport to intercept and confront her.

Capt Nowak told police she had not wanted to harm Ms Shipman, just wanting to scare her rival into talking about her relationship with Cmdr Oefelein.

To avoid toilet breaks during the long drive to Orlando, Capt Nowak is alleged to have worn an adult nappy - such as astronauts wear during shuttle launches and landings - and she disguised herself with a wig, dark glasses and a trench coat.

Pepper spray

Once at the airport she is alleged to have waited for Ms Shipman to arrive and then followed her onto an airport shuttle bus which dropped Ms Shipman at her car.

According to a police affidavit, Ms Shipman says she became aware that someone was following her and so hurried into the vehicle and locked the doors.

Capt Nowak reportedly banged on the car window and asked for a lift, and then to use Ms Shipman's mobile phone.

Capt Nowak
Capt Nowak flew on space shuttle Discovery in July last year
Ms Shipman refused, but rolled down the window when Capt Nowak began to cry.

Ms Shipman was then attacked with pepper spray, the statement says. She managed to drive to a car park booth and police were called.

An officer followed Capt Nowak and she was stopped allegedly carrying the wig, an air rifle, a steel mallet, rubber tubing, dustbin bags, black gloves and a knife.

A search of her vehicle revealed pepper spray and e-mails between Ms Shipman and Cmdr Oefelein, as well as Ms Shipman's home address and hand written directions to the house, police said.

Bail hearing

Earlier on Tuesday, Capt Nowak appeared before a Florida court via video link from an Orange Country jail.

Orange County Circuit Judge Mike Murphy ordered that she be released on condition that she pay a $15,500 (7900) bail bond, wear a satellite-tracking device and agree to make no attempt to contact her alleged victim.

Dressed in a dark blue prison uniform and shackled at the waist, Capt Nowak stood still, with her head bowed, for most of the hearing only speaking to answer "yes" when Judge Murphy asked her if she understood the conditions of her release.

That release was expected to occur later on Tuesday, but was quashed when police filed attempted murder charges against Capt Nowak.

Fellow astronauts Steve Lindsey, the commander of Capt Nowak's mission to the International Space Station last July, and Chris Ferguson both attended the hearing.

Capt Ferguson later said he was "perplexed" by Capt Nowak's recent behaviour.

Video of the astronauts

Astronaut in 'love kidnap plot'
06 Feb 07 |  Americas
Shuttle lifts off in night launch
10 Dec 06 |  Science/Nature
Discovery makes Florida landing
17 Jul 06 |  Science/Nature
From sci-fi to sci-fact
07 Dec 06 |  Magazine


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