Gatwick drones: Couple released without charge, airport dangles £50K reward

by Samuel Abasi Posted on December 23rd, 2018

London, UK : Paul Gait and Elaine Kirk, a married couple in Britain who were detained in connection with the illegal use of drones at Gatwick Airport, sowing three days of chaos and forcing the grounding or diverting of more than 1,000 flights, were released on Sunday without being charged, the police in Sussex said.

Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Tingley said in a statement, “Both people have fully cooperated with our enquiries and I am satisfied that they are no longer suspects in the drone incidents at Gatwick.”

The police also told local reporters at a news briefing on Sunday at Gatwick that they had recovered a “damaged” drone near the airport and that it would be forensically examined. No further details were available.

Gatwick Airport, meanwhile, is offering a 50,000-pound reward (about $63,000) “for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the criminal act that disrupted flights,” the police said.

The two people detained were identified by Henry Smith, a member of Parliament whose constituency includes Gatwick Airport, as Paul Gait, 47, and his wife Elaine Kirk, 54.

They had been held since Friday night on suspicion of disrupting civil aviation services and endangering people or operations, according to the police.

Police officials had said they arrested a man and a woman of the same ages in connection with the investigation, but they did not identify them.

The couple are both from Crawley, a town just south of the airport, and the police were seen searching a home in the area, according to local news reports. Mr. Gait’s Facebook page suggested that he was a drone hobbyist, and they included several photos of remote-controlled helicopters.

On Sunday, the Sussex police said that the couple would not be officially identified, and that the investigation into the drone incursions continued at Britain’s second-busiest airport, which is about 25 miles south of central London.

Officials had feared that a drone could cause a deadly crash of a passenger plane by flying into windows or being sucked into a plane’s engine. The police had described the drones as “industrial” models and were not treating the incident as terrorism-related.

But on Sunday, drone experts raised the specter of copycat drone flights at Gatwick and other airports, as officials slammed what they called a slow response.

Since a brief shutdown on Friday after a suspected drone sighting, no new drone incursions have been reported at Gatwick, and a steady stream of flights has resumed, with some delays.

The airport’s one runway in West Sussex was buzzed more than 40 times within 48 hours since the first sighting on Wednesday night.

Officials called in the Army to provide technical assistance, and the airport said Friday on social media, “The military measures we have in place at the airport have provided us with reassurance necessary to reopen our airfield.”

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