The trail of a teenage U.S. fugitive suspected of stealing cars, boats and airplanes in his flight from the law grew cold Saturday as police acknowledged that it's been days since they've had any credible sightings of the elusive "Barefoot Bandit."
The trail of a teenage U.S. fugitive suspected of stealing cars, boats and airplanes in his flight from the law grew cold Saturday as police acknowledged that it’s been days since they’ve had any credible sightings of the elusive “Barefoot Bandit.”
Authorities searching for Colton Harris-Moore recovered a stolen powerboat on Eleuthera island, 40 miles away from Great Abaco Island, where he crash-landed a plane last Sunday.
But they appeared to have few other leads on the lanky 19-year-old’s whereabouts.
Bahamian authorities were initially confident they would catch the wily teen, who has gained fame and thousands of fans who admire his ability to evade arrest.
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After a week of fruitless searching – and a string of burglaries in normally tranquil Abaco – the tone has shifted, with Assistant Police Commissioner Glenn Miller now refusing to concede Harris-Moore was ever even in the Bahamas.
“The information that he is here came from the U.S.,” Miller said. “Until we get credible evidence, we can only be suspicious.”
Miller said that police are keeping up the search. Whoever crashed the plane stolen from an Indiana airport is suspected in a series of burglaries on Abaco including a 44-foot cabin cruiser, the assistant commissioner said.
In Eleuthera, burglary victims and witnesses said they had no doubt that Harris-Moore was on the island.
Ferry boat captain Freddie Grant said he was returning from Harbour Island in northern Eleuthera on Wednesday evening when he saw a tall, white teenager bathing or swimming in an inlet near the ferry landing. Ferry service employee Stan Pennerman said that he saw Harris-Moore lurking in the woods the same day.
They said they didn’t think much of it until they noticed the next morning that somebody had damaged the ignition system on three of their boats.
A bar at the ferry landing was also burglarized Wednesday night by a thief who dismantled a security light, took juice and potato chips and moved the television’s remote controls, said Denaldo Bain, the 30-year-old manager of Coakley’s International Sporting Lounge.
“He was watching television. He was just chilling,” said Bain, who also said that he saw the teenager in the inlet and said he looked “standoffish.”
Miller, however, said police have not received reports of any credible sightings for several days. He said that wanted posters with photographs of the 6-foot, 5-inch teen and information about the FBI’s $10,000 reward have been distributed on several islands, but declined to say whether police have extended their search to Eleuthera.
After the plane crash-landed in a marshy area at the southern end of Abaco last Sunday, Bahamian authorities said they hoped to be the ones to arrest Harris-Moore and have since launched a manhunt involving Royal Bahamas Defence Force soldiers, police and sniffer dogs.
If they fail, they won’t be the only ones.
“The police in the United States, with all their technology, even they can’t catch him,” said Defence Force chief petty officer Wenzel Davis, 53.
Like Abaco, Eleuthera is largely undeveloped, with thick vegetation crowding a single road running down the center of the 110-mile-long island.
Locals say the fugitive could survive on wild bananas and mangoes in vast, uninhabited swaths of bush – or could choose to hop to another of the Bahamas’ 700 islands off the Florida coast.
Harris-Moore honed his skills as an outdoorsman while growing up in the woods of Camano Island in Puget Sound about 30 miles north of Seattle. After a troubled childhood, his first conviction, for possession of stolen property, came at age 12. Within a few months of turning 13, he had three more.
He was sentenced to nearly four years in juvenile detention after being caught in an unoccupied home in 2007, but he did well enough there that he was transferred to a group home, where he sneaked out of a window more than two years ago.
During his time as a fugitive, he has allegedly stolen at least five airplanes despite a lack of formal flight training. He was dubbed the “Barefoot Bandit” for allegedly going shoeless during some crimes and once allegedly leaving behind chalk footprints as a calling card.
He has become a folk hero to supporters, who have bought up “Run, Colton, Run” T-shirts, written songs about his exploits, and joined the tens of thousands of his followers on Facebook.
His mother, Pamela Kohler, has publicly defended her son and has hired a Seattle lawyer who previously represented Courtney Love and the family of Jimi Hendrix, among other celebrities, The Seattle Times reported Saturday.