Couple wrongly accused of Gatwick Airport drone disruption feel ‘completely violated’
A couple arrested and later released without charge over the drone “attack” that caused Gatwick Airport to shut down for three days have spoken publicly, saying that they feel “completely violated”.
- Paul Gait and Elaine Kirk were arrested and held for two days over the drone disruption
- Couple are receiving medical attention following their release
- Military equipment remains at airport to deter any further disruptions
British newspapers published front-page photos and named Paul Gait and Elaine Kirk, whose identities were withheld by police.
In an emotional statement outside the couple’s West Sussex home on Monday, Mr Gait lashed out at their treatment by police and the media.
“Our home has been searched, and our privacy and identity completely exposed. Our names, photos, and other personal information, has been broadcast throughout the world,” Mr Gait said.
“As you can probably imagine, we’re feeling completely violated.”
Mr Gait and Ms Kirk were held for questioning after two drones were allegedly seen above the airfield at London’s second-busiest airport on Wednesday.
Front page of the British newspaper The Mail that named and published a photograph of Paul Gait and Elaine Kirk. (Supplied)
The sighting prompted an immediate suspension of all air traffic, leaving tens of thousands of holidaymakers stranded at the height of the Christmas travel season, with many forced to sleep in the airport while they waited out the disruption.
The airport was effectively shut down for 36 hours, with police and military personnel stationed at Gatwick to locate the drone operators.
Flights were suspended again on Friday, this time for a little more than an hour, following the sighting of another drone.
After spending two nights in custody and being the subject of intense media speculation, Mr Gait and Ms Kirk were released and charges dropped.
Mr Gait and Ms Kirk said the way they were portrayed initially was “disgusting”, adding that close family and friends never doubted their innocence.
“Post-release without charge or further action, we are totally overwhelmed by the support we have received from the people all over the world, and we would like to thank every single one that has done that,” Mr Gait said.
“We would ask that the press please respect our privacy, and leave us to try and get through Christmas as best we can.”
Mr Gait said he and his wife were receiving medical treatment following the ordeal.
Police backtrack ‘no drone’ comment
Meanwhile, police have furiously played down a comment by a Sussex detective who claimed there may have been no drones at the airport at all.
Chief detective Jason Tingley drew widespread criticism in the British press when he told the BBC on Sunday there was a “always possibility” the drone sightings had been a mistake
Sussex Police spent part of the day backpedalling from the comment, with Deputy Chief Constable Jo Shiner saying that “unequivocally” there had been numerous illegal drone sightings at the airport between December 19 and 21.
“There were numerous reports clustered around 37 occasions where a drone or drones were seen, and I am keen for those responsible to be brought to justice,” Deputy Chief Constable Shiner said.
A damaged drone has been recovered near the airport.
Military equipment remains at Gatwick to deter fresh incursions amid government discussions on how to better protect airports from drones.