US & Canada

US killer George Wright held in Portugal after 40 years

George Wright in 1963
Image caption George Wright was originally jailed for a murder in 1962

A convicted killer who has been on the run from US police for more than 40 years has been arrested in Portugal, the FBI says.

George Wright escaped from a New Jersey prison in 1970 and hijacked a US airliner two years later while dressed as a priest.

He and his four accomplices fled to Algeria but within a few years all but Wright had been caught.

The FBI said it was now seeking Wright's extradition.

Wright was arrested on Monday by Portuguese authorities at the request of the US government, the FBI said in a statement.

He was originally convicted of the 1962 murder of a petrol station owner in Wall, New Jersey, and sentenced to up to 30 years in jail.

But in 1970, after serving eight years, he and three other inmates escaped from the Bayside State Prison in Leesburg, New Jersey.

The FBI said Wright then linked up with the Black Liberation Army - an underground militant group - and in 1972 he and four accomplices hijacked a Delta Air Lines flight from Detroit to Miami.

News reports at the time said Wright, then 29, had been dressed as a priest and used the alias the Rev L Burgess.

At Miami airport, the hijackers demanded a $1m ransom and when the money was delivered they freed the 86 people on board.

Final fugitive

The plane was forced on to Boston where another crew member was taken on board, and the group then flew on to Algeria.

Algerian officials returned the plane and the ransom to the US and briefly detained the hijackers before allowing them to stay.

Then in 1976, Wright's four associates were arrested, tried and convicted in Paris. Wright was the last remaining fugitive.

Michael Ward, Special Agent in charge of the FBI's Newark Division, said the investigation demonstrated the tenacity of US law enforcement "even after 40 years".

"This case should also serve notice that the FBI's determination in pursuing subjects will not diminish over time or distance," he said.

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