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

A US Air Force officer with top-secret clearance who went missing in 1983 has been living under an assumed name in California, according to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

Hughes, who worked out of the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center in N.M., was last seen in Albuquerque withdrawing $28,500 from his bank account at 19 different branch locations.

The missing airman's arrest follows Hughes having been involved in classified planning and analysis of NATO's control, command and communications surveillance systems during the Cold War.

But, after completing a tour of duty in the Netherlands and spending two weeks on holiday in Europe, Capt. Hughes vanished.

His auto sat in the Albuquerque airport's parking lot.

His sister, Christine Hughes, maintained that her brother would never defect or disappear without leaving a note, she told Associated Press in 1984.

After his arrest, Hughes told investigators that he was depressed about being in the Air Force and chose to leave.

His family feared that he had been abducted. Hughes, a Seattle native was arrested without incident on Wednesday.

It is unknown whether family had been in contact with Hughes or knew of his whereabouts following his 1983 disappearance. The interview was held with "Barry O'Beirne", but it didn't take long for officials to realize the man's true identity.

According to a news release, Hughes admitted his identity during an interview with the U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service as part of a passport fraud investigation.

After several rocket ship failures in the U.S. and France, including the Challenger space shuttle disaster in 1986, Los Angeles Times journalist Tad Szulc theorised Capt Hughes may have been to blame. Some believed that the perpetrators were from the Soviet Union.

He had a Top Secret/Single Scope Background Investigation clearance, which meant he had access to USA and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation secret information.

There was even speculation that Hughes may have been abducted by or defected to the Soviets. Officials said he was using the name Barry O'Beirne. "Due to his access to classified information he was declared a fugitive and was on a list of the USAF's seven most wanted individuals", says the BBC.

But an Office of Special Investigations spokeswoman told the Albuquerque Journal that there's no indication Hughes was involved with the Soviet Union or that any classified information was leaked. But still, she said, the case remains under investigation.

Hughes is awaiting pretrial proceedings for his desertion case at the Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif.

"Until we have the whole story", she said, "we don't have the story".

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