Published: Mon, June 11, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Air Force officer, missing for 35 years, found in California

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations has said that a fugitive captain has been apprehended in California after being declared a deserter nearly 35 years ago.

Special agents from Travis Air Force Base took Hughes into custody at his California home Wednesday and he is being held at the base, the Air Force said.

Hughes was identified and questioned last week as part of an investigation into passport fraud.

His auto was found at the Albuquerque airport and a search of his home in the 1900 block of Chandelle Loop NE revealed notes of planned activities and books to read upon his return, according to reports. But after supposedly leaving for Europe, he was never seen again. In July 1983, Hughes had been assigned to temporary duty in the Netherlands to work with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officers "on the operations of Airborne Warning and Control electronic surveillance aircraft" but never resurfaced after leaving for Europe.

Interviews with Hughes' friends and associates and inquiries with law enforcement agencies in the United States and overseas failed to locate him, the statement said, and he was formally declared a deserter on December 9, 1983.

The veteran specialized in radar surveillance. Nevertheless speculation persisted that Hughes may have been abducted by or defected to the Soviets.

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William Howard Hughes Jr., shown in a decades-old official Air Force photo, had been living under the name Barry O'Beirne, the service said.

Hughes created a fake identity and lived under the pseudonym "Barry O'Beirne" for over three decades. Hughes's disappearance, in the eyes of some, fit right into the puzzle.

At the time of his disappearance in 1983, Hughes, then 31, was assigned to the Kirtland-based Air Force Operation Test and Evaluation Center.

Later that year, the unmarried Seattle native was declared a deserter - something one of his sisters refused to believe. But eventually the Air Force and Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had no evidence indicating any top-secret information had been leaked or that Hughes engaged in espionage.

An office of special investigations spokeswoman told the Albuquerque Journal that there was no indication Hughes was involved spying for or passing information to the Soviet Union or that any classified information was leaked.

Hughes faces desertion charges, which carries a maximum of five years in prison. "Until we have the whole story, we don't have the story". Secret and NATO Secret information, " the Air Force maintained that he was not carrying classified information with him on his trip to the Netherlands.

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