Thu, Nov 06, 2014 - Page 6 News List

US fugitive, son tracked 8,800km to far-flung Niue

AFP, WELLINGTON

An American accused of kidnapping his son was found with the boy on the remote South Pacific atoll of Niue, about 8,800km from his home, authorities said.

The FBI said nine-year-old Billy Hanson of Seattle, Washington, was reported missing by his mother in September when he failed to return from a visit to his father, Jeffrey.

An international search was launched, with authorities focusing on finding a yacht belonging to Hanson senior, a skilled sailor with experience voyaging around Mexico and the South Pacific.

Despite warning the mother that, in terms of where Jeffrey Hanson could have gone, “the possibilities are endless,” investigators eventually tracked the pair down in Niue, a speck of coral known by the 1,200 locals that inhabit it as “The Rock” and which sits 2,400km northeast of New Zealand.

Members of Niue’s 15-strong police force arrested Hanson on Oct. 29, the FBI said, adding that he had since been deported to the US and would face court charged with international parental kidnapping.

“We are grateful to law enforcement authorities in Niue for their exceptional efforts in finding Billy Hanson and taking Jeffrey Hanson into custody,” the FBI said in a statement.

While Jeffrey Hanson left Niue late last week with a police escort, Billy stayed on the island for an extra four days as arrangements were made to return him to his mother.

Niue Star editor Michael Jackson said locals had rallied to look after the boy, who seemed unfazed and appeared to be treating his time in the Pacific as an adventure.

“I saw him at a barbeque on Friday and he did not look stressed,” Jackson said. “He had a Niue T-shirt on and was enjoying himself.”

Jackson said the child had become something of a celebrity during his time on the island.

“When I was at the petrol [gas] station he came past and people were whispering ‘there’s the boy who was kidnapped,’” he said. “It’s all been quite exciting for us.”

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