Flushed from city suburb after 27 years on the run
Some key events from this week in history are reflected in the following reports taken from the archives of the Argus’s 160-year-old titles
CAPE Town was agog on the afternoon of November 9, 2002 when news broke of the arrest in suburban Claremont of the last fugitive member of the notorious Symbionese Liberation Army that terrorised the US in the 1970s.
James William Kilgore, who went by the name of Charles – and also John – Pape, had been on the run for 27 years.
The mild- mannered and widely respected 55- year- old academic – as he was known to friends and colleagues at UCT and across southern Africa – had been part of the radical group that committed politically motivated crimes in the US, including a string of bank robberies and the kidnap of newspaper heiress Patty Hearst in the 1970s.
To his neighbours in Claremont, Charles William Pape was an amicable, reserved man who kept to himself, played soccer and cricket with his two sons in the yard and held down a respectable job as a researcher at the University of Cape Town.
But “Charles William Pape” did not exist.
If the world, and Kilgore, had moved on, US security agents had not given up their quest to find the fugitive.
Two months earlier, on an official internet site, the FBI called for public assistance in apprehending Kilgore for murder and the unlawful possession of an explosive device.
In a cautionary note, the FBI alleged that Kilgore had been involved with the Symbionese Liberation Army, which abducted Hearst on February 4, 1974, in Berkeley, California, and robbed the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco two months later.
It also alleged that on September 21, 1975, an unregistered pipe bomb was found at Kilgore’s home in San Francisco.
On January 15, 2002, Kilgore (though still at large) was charged with the murder of Myrna Opsahl, who was shot and killed during a robbery at the Crocker National Bank in Carmichael, California, on April 21, 1975.
Days after his arrest in November, Kilgore was extradited to the US, was tried, and sent to prison in California for sixand-a-half years. In this time, he wrote several novels, the first of which, We Are All Zimbabweans Now, was published a month after his release in 2009 by Umuzi Publishers in Cape Town.
Kilgore settled in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, and has been teaching there at the Center for African Studies. Two years ago, in 2015, he published a book that welled in large measure from his imprisonment, Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People’s Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time.
Here is the story of 15 years ago about Kilgore’s arrest in Cape Town. November 9, 2002 Nabbed: Leader of US terror gang captured in city after 27 years on the run
“JAMES Kilgore, leader and last fugitive member of the notorious Symbionese Liberation Army that terrorised the United States in the 1970s, has been captured in Claremont in Cape Town after having been on the run for 27 years.
“Kilgore, 55, was part of the radical group that committed politically motivated crimes in the US that included a string of bank robberies and the kidnap of newspaper heiress Patty Hearst in the 1970s.
“Hearst later became a member of the movement and photographs of her cradling a machine gun during a bank robbery shocked the world.
“It was a photograph which personified a time of hijackings, bombings and a plethora of young anti-establishment terror groups.
Hearst, who was jailed for her role in the movement, was pardoned by former US president Bill Clinton when he left office last year.
“Kilgore, who arrived in South Africa five years ago with false documents under the alias Charles Pape, worked as a senior researcher at UCT.
His wife, Terri Barnes, is senior researcher at the University of the Western Cape and the couple have two young sons.
“Kilgore, who also used the alias John Pape, was a well-respected academic and his work was published widely. Yesterday his colleagues said they were stunned by the information that Kilgore was a wanted terrorist. They said he was a friend and mild-mannered family man.
“But on Friday his new life, which he had built meticulously over many years, came crashing down. At 7.15pm South African police tracked him down to his Dunluce Road home, ending his decades-long run from the law.
“His arrest took place a day after four of his former comrades were sentenced to between six to eight years for their roles in a campaign of terror which involved numerous bank robberies and the kidnapping of Hearst.
“Police spokeswoman Mary Martins-Engelbrecht said Kilgore, 55, had been on the run from the FBI for the past 27 years.
Kilgore is wanted for murder, armed robbery and the illegal possession of homemade bombs.
“Martins-Engelbrecht said it was thought that Kilgore had been in Zimbabwe before he moved to South Africa. South African police began searching for him at Interpol’s request about three months ago.
“Martins-Engelbrecht said he would not be returned to the US unless Washington gave a formal undertaking that he would not
face execution, which is outlawed under South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution.
“The most notorious of the Symbionese Liberation Army’s crimes was the kidnapping of Hearst in 1974. The group brainwashed Hearst into joining them and she was convicted of bank robbery committed while part of the group.
“The Symbionese Liberation Army thought of their crimes as revolutionary justice on behalf of racial minorities in the US.
“Kilgore’s former partners in crime were convicted this week of the shotgun killing of Myrna Opsahl, who was gunned down during the hold-up of a bank near Sacramento in 1975.
“Opsahl’s husband, Trygve, said Kilgore’s arrest was good news. ‘ When you’re dealing with a fugitive who’s overseas, anything could happen but I understood there was something in the wind.’
“The FBI had offered a $20 000 reward, unveiled a bust and released computer- enhanced photographs of what a clean-shaven, grey-haired Kilgore might look like now.
“He was featured on television’s America’s Most Wanted and authorities have received more than 200 tip-offs about his whereabouts in the past two years – but there had not been a single confirmed sighting of Kilgore in more than two decades.
“Kilgore is in custody at Bellville police station and will appear in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court tomorrow. Late yesterday afternoon his wife visited him at the police station.”
A day later, readers learnt from further reporting that “James Kilgore, like any other prisoner in the police cells, took delivery yesterday of a razor and a spare shirt. But in the shopping bags brought by his distraught wife were also a pile of books and a foolscap writing pad. For the man behind bars… was one of Cape Town’s most respected labour academics.”
Pape was co-director of the International Labour Resource and Information Group at UCT, is known as “an outspoken champion of the poor”.
Patty Hearst, a wife, mother and noted fund-raiser for charity, in California a few years ago.