Air Force officer who vanished in 1983 found using fake ID

An Air Force captain who deserted in 1983 amid speculation of Cold War espionage was arrested last week at his home in California, where he had been living under a fictitious identity for 35 years, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations said.

Hughes was last seen in the Albuquerque area withdrawing $28,500 from his bank account at 19 different branches, the Air Force said, though not indicating when.

He had top secret clearance, but "none that could compromise national security", Pentagon officials said in article that appeared in the Journal on May 2, 1984.

Hughes told authorities he was depressed about being in the Air Force and chose to leave.

Hughes apparently lived in California under the assumed identity of Barry O'Beirne.

Hughes was taken into custody by special agents from the Travis Air Force Base and is being held at the military base.

He faces a maximum sentence of five years confinement, forfeiture of all pay and dishonourable discharge for his desertion.

It is unknown whether family had been in contact with Hughes or knew of his whereabouts following his 1983 disappearance. He was supposed to report back to Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico in August 1983, but he didn't show up.

Hughes, who had top-secret clearance when he was in the Air Force, worked on classified North Atlantic Treaty Organisation systems, the AFOSI says.

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He had just completed a stint in the Netherlands, where he worked with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officers on the Airborne Warning and Control electronic surveillance aircraft.

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. Meanwhile, his family and friends say that they didn't know about his current status or location.

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.

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

What were some of theories of why he disappeared?

"We do not feel he disappeared voluntarily", his sister, Christine Hughes, said in the article. 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.

Checks with law enforcement around the USA and overseas, alongside interviews with those who knew Hughes, did not provide enough information for the Air Force to find him at the time.

In 1985 and 1986, several French and American rocket ships failed to launch properly and subsequently exploded, including the Challenger space shuttle. Those officers suggested Hughes may have been linked to possible sabotage of some failed US and French rocket launches.

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