Sunday, 17 February, 2019

USAF captain missing for 35 years found alive in California

USAF captain missing for 35 years found alive in California USAF captain missing for 35 years found alive in California
Melinda Barton | 12 June, 2018, 05:03

When investigators confronted him about "inconsistencies about his identity", the man confessed that his real name was William Howard Hughes Jr., and that he deserted the Air Force in 1983, according to the Office of Special Investigations.

He has been living under the alias Barry O'Beirne since then. This is the last time he was seen as William Howard Hughes until last week.

While working at his permanent duty station at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, the Air Force assigned Hughes to a temporary duty station in the Netherlands in July 1983.

Hughes was unmarried when he disappeared, but the Seattle native had three sisters. Prior to his "capture", Hughes had been formally declared a deserter by the Air Force Dec. 9, 1983. Hughes was single when he disappeared and said he had lived in California as O'Beirne since.

He told authorities that he had been depressed about being in the military and had fled to California, creating the fictitious identity.

William Howard Hughes Jr. was formally declared a deserter by the Air Force on December 9, 1983.

Before this week's apprehension, Hughes was last seen withdrawing more than $28,000 in Albuquerque from various bank locations in the summer of 1983 after returning from a two-week vacation in Europe.

At the time of his disappearance, the 31-year-old office had top secret security clearance, working on "classified planning and analysis of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation command, control and communications surveillance systems", United States military journal Stars and Stripes reports.

He was supposed to return back to duty in Albuquerque by August of that year only to never show up.

In a 1984 article by the Associated Press, Capt Hughes' family said they believed he had been abducted.

Hughes reportedly returned to New Mexico on leave in July 1983. Others speculated that he had defected -possibly to the Soviets - with the highly classified information, a notion that fomented conspiracy theories for years.

Linda Card, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, told the Albuquerque Journal Sunday that to this day officials still do not have any evidence indicating leaks of classified information.

His family did not appear to know about his disappearance with the Albuquerque Journal reporting that his sisters said at the time that they thought he might have been abducted.

"Szulc quoted an unidentified intelligence officer who told him, "[Hughes] is worth his weight in gold to the Russians in terms of future 'Star Wars, ' if we have them".

"They (AFOSI investigators) said at this point there's no indication that he had any classified information or that he gave any classified information", Card said.

But more than 30 years after he dropped off the grid, Hughes was caught.

"Until we have the whole story", she said, "we don't have the story". Hughes was charged with desertion.

U.S. deserters can face a number of charges once they are found, including prison time, being dishonourably discharged and losing pay.