Gardai will interview plane passengers in sex-act probe
Published 05/11/2010 | 05:00
GARDAI are to interview up to a dozen passengers who were on board an Aer Lingus flight when a prominent broadcaster allegedly masturbated in front of fellow travellers.
Neil Prendeville (49) is said to have exposed himself and committed the lewd act in full view of horrified crew and passengers on a flight from Heathrow to Cork on October 19.
He has gone on leave from his €150,000-a-year job with Cork's 96fm radio station and is expected to be interviewed by gardai within three weeks.
It has emerged that 'Irish Examiner' reporter Niamh Hennessy, who witnessed the incident, was part of a group from Cork that had travelled to London as guests of the Cork Convention Bureau (CCB).
While the paper's coverage of the episode has not included Ms Hennessy's name, it did publish the contents of a grovelling apology left on her mobile phone by Mr Prendeville.
The presenter with the UTV-owned station made a dramatic on-air apology on Wednesday, insisting that he had no recollection of events on the flight, due to the combined effects of alcohol and painkillers.
Mr Prendeville said he could not remember the trip from a London restaurant to Heathrow or the flight itself -- although he did remember taking more headache tablets before boarding the flight.
The broadcaster was not at his home in Douglas yesterday.
One of the two passengers seated beside him in the front row during the flight has said he did not see the incident.
Hotelier and Cork Convention Bureau (CCB) official Seamus Heaney was in an aisle seat to the left of Mr Prendeville.
"The incident was brought to my attention by an air hostess. But I personally saw nothing, so I cannot comment," he told the Irish Independent.
Gardai have now received a formal complaint about the incident from Aer Lingus air crew.
This followed an internal investigation by the airline's security officials, after it had received reports from both the aircraft pilot and the cabin staff.
Bizarrely, however, no complaint was made to either gardai or airport police in advance of the flight landing at Cork.
Two air hostesses were seated directly facing Mr Prendeville. However, they could not intervene until the plane had safely taken off. Once it had done so, one immediately confronted the radio star.
The other seat beside Mr Prendeville was occupied by the reporter, Ms Hennessy -- who has been unavailable for comment this week.
She was part of the delegation to London, which was aimed at promoting Cork as a tourism destination.
Details of an apologetic voice message left by Mr Prendeville for her were published by her newspaper on Wednesday.
However, the story was written by other journalists. It did not name Ms Hennessy as one of the paper's reporters, nor say she was part of the delegation to London which included the presenter.