'Barefoot bandit' trail leads FBI to plane crash in the Bahamas

Federal agents have been itching for months to get their hands on a certain Colton Harris-Moore, a 19-year-old fugitive from the law whose home was coastal Washington State near Seattle. That he may have pitched up – or rather crash-landed – in a tourist isle in the Bahamas was not what anyone expected.

The trail of Harris-Moore, sometimes known as the "Barefoot Bandit" for his habit of committing burglaries while shoeless, turned red hot on Sunday when a plane which had earlier been stolen from a small airport in Indiana was discovered nose-down in three-feet of water off the coast of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas.

That the Cessna 400, valued at $650,000 (3427,000), had been commandeered by Harris-Moore seems beyond doubt to the FBI, which on Tuesday announced a $10,000 reward for anyone with information that will lead to his arrest. They also unsealed a federal criminal complaint against him dated last December. It details more than 60 crimes he is thought to have committed since slipping out of a low-security home for juveniles back in 2008.

While the plane has been recovered, the hunt for its alleged pilot is only just beginning and will fan across the Bahamas, better known as a destination for sun-worshippers and fishing enthusiasts. "He's not in custody as yet. We're following some leads and we're working with the community to try and find him. Hopefully we should find him," assistant police commissioner with the Royal Bahamas Police Force, Glenn Miller, confirmed. The optimism may be misplaced given the suspect's history of evading capture and teasing the victims of his crimes and the police. Most recently, investigators have been tracking a succession of crimes committed across the Midwest, all of which seem to display his hallmarks, including the occasion when a family in South Dakota returned home to find a nude young man inside. He blinded them with a laser pointer before vanishing.

The complaint unsealed by the FBI covers investigations tied to the suspect dating back to before leaving the Pacific Northwest last month for his apparent cross-country spree. Included, however, is the theft of another Cessna in late September in Idaho and the discovery of its wreckage two days later in Granite Falls, Idaho. The goods described as being stolen by the suspect in the complaint would together be valued at over $3m.

The young man was also thought to be at the controls of another light aircraft stolen during the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. The plane skirted along the boundaries of a no-fly area set up as part of the security arrangements for the games and then vanished before anyone could intercept it.

Police say he left the Pacific Northwest on 1 June, slipping across the Columbia River and beginning his odyssey across the country in a variety of stolen vehicles. But now he seems to have pushed the boat out, or rather his latest winged acquisition. Police in the town of Monroe, Indiana, were already dealing with reports of a car that had been stolen in neighbouring Illinois when they received news that a plane had gone missing from the airport.

A relatively recent model, the Cessna in question had a range of a little over 1,200 miles, putting the Bahamas just within its flying reach. It is still a relatively challenging flight plan for a young man who has never, as far as anyone knows, received any pilot's instruction. In southern Florida alone he faced several restricted flying zones around NASA's Cape Canaveral as well as military bases and commercial airports.

Then there was the matter of ditching it in water safely, something he did six miles offshore. When the police arrived, the wreckage was there, but the pilot was gone. "We suspect that maybe the individual is a good swimmer, or the water may not have been that deep," said Mr Miller. It seems both observations were true.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower