US fugitive found with son on Pacific's tiny Niue

2014-11-05 13:39
FBI (Picture: <a href="">Shutterstock</a> )

FBI (Picture: Shutterstock )

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

The FBI said 9-year-old Billy Hanson of Seattle 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 possibilities are endless", investigators eventually tracked down the pair to Niue, a speck of coral known by the 1 200 locals as "The Rock", which sits 2 400km northeast of New Zealand.

Members of Niue's 15-strong police force arrested Hanson on 29 October, the FBI said, adding that he had since been deported to the United Sates 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, Bill remained on the island for an extra four days while arrangements were made to return him to his mother.

The editor of the Niue Star newspaper, Michael Jackson, said locals had rallied around 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," he told AFP. "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 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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