WELLINGTON: A US murder suspect who made a dramatic high-seas escape from Tonga after breaking out of custody was arrested in neighboring American Samoa, police said Tuesday.
A Pacific-wide alert was issued for Dean Jay Fletcher last Thursday after he fled the island nation in his yacht pursued by a police launch.
Police located the 54-year-old in the open ocean but after a five-hour standoff had to let him go when he threatened to torch their small vessel using flares and fuel.
Police commissioner Steve Caldwell said officials in American Samoa arrested the fugitive after his yacht Sea Oak docked in Pago Pago.
“Fletcher has been arrested by local authorities and extradition proceedings have been commenced,” he said.
Fletcher arrived in Tonga with his Canadian wife in May and in July reported to police that he had found her dead aboard their yacht.
He was charged with murder after authorities conducted a post-mortem examination. Further details of the alleged crime have not yet been made public.
Caldwell says that the full circumstances of Fletcher’s escape from the police cell would be investigated.
“I have obvious concerns over this matter and people will be held to account if accepted procedures have not been followed,” he said.