A US man who broke out of prison in 1970 after committing a murder, then hijacked an airplane to Algeria and disappeared for four decades, has finally been arrested in Portugal, the FBI said Tuesday.
George Wright, “a fugitive for over 41 years, was arrested yesterday by Portuguese authorities,” the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Newark office said. “The United States is seeking his extradition from Portugal to serve the remainder of a 15 to 30 year sentence.”
Wright’s wild spree began on November 23, 1962, when he and three associates became involved in a series of armed robberies. During a raid on a New Jersey petrol station, Wright and another man shot dead a World War II veteran.
Although Wright was arrested soon after and pleaded “no defense,” he and three other men escaped from Bayside State Prison in New Jersey in August of 1970.
For two years, Wright disappeared into the Black Liberation Army, a violent group of African American communists. Then on July 31, 1972, he was among five adults who hijacked a Delta flight flying from Detroit to Miami, where they demanded $1 million ransom for the passengers.
When this was paid, they forced the plane to fly to Boston where it refueled and took on another hostage pilot, then crossed the Atlantic to Algeria.
The hijackers sought asylum there. Although the plane and money were seized by the Algerians and returned to the United States, the hijackers were only briefly detained.
The next time the gang hit the headlines was May 1976 when French police captured four of them — though not Wright. Until Monday this week, he managed to remain on the run.
“The investigation into George Wright serves as an example of law enforcement strength and tenacity. Even after 40 years, the commitment of law enforcement is unwavering,” Michael Ward, head of the FBI Newark Division, said in a statement.
“This case should also serve notice that the FBIs determination in pursuing subjects will not diminish over time or distance.”