5 – Ray Wasn’t Caught for Two Months
Unlike other famous 1960s assassins such as Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan, James Earl Ray was not apprehended quickly. While he had plenty of experience evading the police, it seems remarkable that the most wanted man in America remained free for two months after committing his heinous crime. While Ray later claimed to be innocent, he fled Memphis as quickly as he could after the assassination and several witnesses claimed to have seen him run away from the scene.
After his capture, Ray claimed that he listened to the radio and heard that the police were seeking a man fitting his description driving a white Ford Mustang, the same car he was driving. His later story said that while he didn’t shoot King, he was scared and dumped his Mustang before traveling by train and bus across the border to Canada. He reached Canada by April 6 and acquired a Canadian citizen’s birth certificate. The name was Ramon Sneyd, and Ray used it to get a Canadian passport. However, a clerical error spelled his surname ‘Sneya,’ and this mistake proved costly.
Ray laid low in Canada for a month before boarding a flight in Toronto on May 7, destined for London. Once he landed in the UK, Ray flew to Lisbon in Portugal. Later, he said he made the journey in the hope of securing passage to Africa where it would be very difficult to find him. He planned to become a mercenary in a country that had no extradition treaty with the United States. While in Lisbon, he discovered the passport mistake and persuaded the Canadian embassy to give him a replacement passport to match the name ‘Sneyd’ on his birth certificate.
However, he was unable to get to Africa, so Ray returned to London on May 17. Ray desperately tried to find contacts to complete his Africa plan. He was running low on cash, so he robbed a small bank on June 4 but only stole £100; this happened a week after a failed raid on a store. The victims of his crimes identified him as James Earl Ray, and on June 8, he was arrested in Heathrow Airport as he tried to fly to Brussels. Now that King’s killer had been caught, it was time for justice to be served.