A French researcher has unearthed evidence suggesting two French pilots beat America's Charles Lindbergh in his historic 1927 flight across the Atlantic only to vanish, perhaps shot down by Al Capone's bootleg mafia.

Charles Nungesser, known as French First World War aviation's "ace of aces" and François Coli, his navigator, were hailed as heroes when they took off from Paris on May 8, 1927, in the hope of reaching New York. The prize for the first non-stop transatlantic flight was a place in the history books and a $25,000 (£15,600) cheque.

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