Friday, 16 November, 2018

Ex-Kirtland AFB officer missing since 1983 found

Patty Aguilar | 11 June, 2018, 19:27

Finally, they obtained surveillance video that captured him withdrawing more than $28,000 from 19 different banks in the Albuquerque area on July 22.

A man who allegedly deserted the U.S. Air Force and vanished without a trace 35 years ago was found at a California home living under a fake name, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations said in a news release.

Hughes was charged with desertion.

Hughes was identified and questioned last week as part of an investigation into passport fraud. But after supposedly leaving for Europe, he was never seen again.

At the time, Hughes was single and assigned to an Air Force center in New Mexico, where he had responsibilities including "classified planning and analysis of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation command, control, and communications surveillance systems", the Air Force said.

Before he mysteriously disappeared and landed on the Air Force Most Wanted list, Capt. William Howard Hughes Jr. phoned home to tell his mother and father that he was going to the Netherlands.

The Office of Special Investigations declined to comment further on the case, telling ABC News the Air Force has nothing more to add until its legal department moves forward with a recommendation. Others speculated that he had defected -possibly to the Soviets - with the highly classified information, a notion that fomented conspiracy theories for years.

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Air Force Capt. William Howard Hughes Jr. started at Kirtland in 1981, working on NATO's command, control and communications surveillance systems. The news of Hughes' disappearance made headlines the following year, with a front-page Albuquerque Journal announcing "Kirtland Launches Search for Officer Missing 5 Months" on January 17, 1984.

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 has claimed that he was depressed about his time in the Air Force and so chose to leave.

At the time of his disappearance, Hughes was in his early thirties.

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

An OSI spokesperson told the newspaper that there was no indication Hughes had given away any classified information. "Until we have the whole story, we don't have the story". If convicted, he might face maximum penalties of dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and confinement of five years.

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