US fugitive lived openly in Africa

Wright was convicted of the 1962 murder of gas station owner Walter Patterson.

Lisbon: An American fugitive who brazenly
hijacked a plane in the 1970s lived openly in the African
nation of Guinea-Bissau during the 1980s under his real name,
a former US ambassador said today.

Retired Guinea-Bissau Ambassador John Blacken told a news agency said the embassy knew George Wright captured
this week in Portugal but did not know he was a fugitive.

Embassy officials would have taken action if they had
known Wright had escaped from jail while serving time for
murder, and was wanted in the case of the jet hijacked by his
American radical group to Algeria in 1972.

"If we had received such a cable, we would have
responded," said Blacken, who said he was stunned upon hearing
news reports about Wright`s detention in Portugal.

Wright used his own name while in Guinea-Bissau, and
Blacken remembered meeting Wright socially in the former
Portuguese colony where Black was ambassador from 1986 to

"All this was a big surprise, my goodness, murder and
everything else," Blacken said in an interview from
Guinea-Bissau, where he retired.

"No one imagined him being a murderer, of course we didn`t
know him that well. He seemed like an ordinary person and not
radical at all."

Blacken could not recall what sort of work Wright did in
Guinea-Bisseau. He said he remembered Wright`s Portuguese wife
better because she had worked for as a translator for either
the embassy or for a Guinea-Bissau trade and investment
project he launched in 1993.

"It`s strange that (US officials) never tracked him down
here," Blacken said.

Wright has lived for at least the last two decades in
Portugal, and a photocopy of his Portuguese residency card
that news agency viewed listed his home country as Guinea-Bissau.

A woman who answered the phone at the Guinea-Bissau
embassy in Lisbon said no one was available to comment on
whether Wright obtained citizenship from the country.
The secretary for Ambassador Fali Embalo said he would not
be in his office today.

Wright was convicted of the 1962 murder of gas station
owner Walter Patterson, a decorated World War II veteran shot
during a robbery at his business in Wall, New Jersey.


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