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PORTUGAL: U.S. fugitive did odd jobs in scenic village, AP finds

September 28, 2011 |  9:16 am

He worked odd jobs, most recently as a nightclub bouncer, and lived in a picturesque village near the beach with his Portuguese wife and children.

The Associated Press went to the Portuguese hamlet where George Wright, the U.S. fugitive wanted for a notorious hijacking, spent decades before authorities caught up with him this week.

Townspeople in Almocageme, about 28 miles west of Lisbon, pointed out a whitewashed house with terra cotta roof tiles where they said Wright, now 68, lived with his Portuguese wife and two children, who are in their 20s. A woman who answered the door told the AP she had no comment, then closed the door.

Most locals said they assumed Wright was African, not American.

“He was a very nice guy,” gas station attendant Ricardo Salvador told the news service. “He used to wave as he drove past and I'd shout out, ‘Hey, George!'"

In 1970, Wright escaped from a New Jersey jail, where he had been serving 15 to 30 years for shooting to death a gas station employee during a robbery the day after Thanksgiving in 1962. He resurfaced two years later when authorities say he hijacked a Delta flight from Detroit to Miami with four other members of the Black Liberation Army, a radical black nationalist group.

The some 90 passengers were released in exchange for $1 million, delivered by FBI agents wearing swimsuits. The Delta DC-8 then made its way to Algeria, where officials seized the plane and the money and returned them to the United States. The hijackers, however, were freed.

Several years later, four were captured in France, but Wright remained missing. He was picked up outside his home in Portugal on Monday as he headed to a neighborhood cafe.

U.S. officials are requesting his extradition to New Jersey to finish serving his sentence. It was unclear whether Wright could also face trial for the hijacking.


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Photo: A woman is seen outside the house where neighbors said U.S. fugitive George Wright lived in Almocageme, near Lisbon, Portugal, on Wednesday. Credit: Francisco Seco / Associated Press