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Missing Air Force Officer Found 35 Years Later In California

Mystery has surrounded the discovery of a high ranking Air Force Officer with top secret clearance who went missing more than 35 years ago only to 'apparently' re-surface in California.

Capt William Howard Hughes Jr, who had top-secret clearance, was last seen withdrawing $28,500 (£21,300) from his bank account at 19 different locations in New Mexico. In July 1983, Hughes had been assigned to temporary duty in the Netherlands to work with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officers "on the operations of Airborne Warning and Control electronic surveillance aircraft" but never resurfaced after leaving for Europe.

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

Investigators found Hughes' vehicle abandoned at the Albuquerque airport.

William Howard Hughes, Jr., who was going by the name Barry O'Beirne, admitted his true identity after becoming the subject of a passport fraud investigation during an interview with the U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service on June 5.

Although Hughes told the authorities he abandoned his air force career because he had gotten "depressed", and assumed a fake identity before settling down in California, the AFOSI authorities said there were a number of questions that still remain unanswered regarding his disappearance, which will be revealed as investigation into his actions continued.

His family speculated he was abducted. Hughes, a Seattle native was arrested without incident on Wednesday. In the wake of those disasters, Los Angeles Times journalist Tad Szulc reported in July of 1986 that intelligence officers believed the rockets may have been sabotaged with Hughes' help. That would be "totally out of character for the Bill we knew", she said. Hughes's disappearance, in the eyes of some, fit right into the puzzle. "These include the apparent defection to the Soviet Union in 1983 of the U.S. Air Force's leading expert on rocket self-destruct procedures" - meaning Hughes. Officials said he was using the name Barry O'Beirne.

"Intelligence officers believe that Hughes was either captured by Soviet agents or voluntarily defected to the Soviet Union", the Times said. "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. Friends and co-workers also didn't provide any information, the Air Force said. An OSI spokesperson told the newspaper that there was no indication Hughes had given away any classified information. But still, she said, the case remains under investigation. "Until we have the whole story, we don't have the story". CNN reports that it remains unclear what charges he will face.

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