Face of Italian man who caused chaos at Dublin airport after Ebola claims on flight
AN Italian company director has admitted causing an Ebola scare by playing a “sick joke” on board an Aer Lingus plane that triggered a major security alert at Dublin airport.
Roberto Binaschi (56), from Corso Argentina, Vigevano, Italy, had scribbled “Attenzione Ebola” on a coffee cup lid as a prank on his daughter on the flight from Milan.
The cup was spotted in the bin by cabin crew who reported it and triggered an emergency response, with 142 passengers held on board for an hour as the plane went on lockdown after landing.
Binaschi was left without a criminal conviction for yesterday’s false alarm when he admitted a charge at Dublin District Court this morning and paid €2,500 to charity.
His wife (51) and daughter (23) had also been arrested but were released without charge.
Binaschi, with an address in Milan, pleaded guilty to using threatening abusive or insulting behaviour on board an aircraft.
The charge is under the Air Navigation and Transport Act.
Judge Anthony Halpin said what happened was as serious as writing “there is a bomb on the plane” on a napkin. He applied the Probation Act.
The court heard the accused worked in the IT industry and had been coming to Dublin with his wife and daughter for a conference.
A garda sergeant said the message was written on the plastic lid of a styrofoam cup which was put in the bin “in the ordinary course” of cleaning up and discovered by staff. He admitted having written it when asked.
Questioned by Defence Solicitor Michelle Finan, the sergeant confirmed that no other passenger had been exposed to the cup or lid.
Ms Finan said the accused wrote the note because when he took a sip from his daughter’s coffee, she said: “your germs are all over my cup now.”
His wife was not aware of the exchange at all and it was an “extremely unfortunate” series of events.
The accused was a man of good standing in his own community, his company traded with Ireland all the time and he had been travelling here to create jobs, Ms Finan said.
He had no previous convictions.
She asked the judge to leave Binaschi without a conviction.
“I cannot think of a more serious offence given the present fear of Ebola,” Judge Halpin said. “The only comparison I believe is someone writing on a napkin: ‘there is a bomb on the plane.”
Binaschi then gave evidence that he drank his daughter’s coffee “knowing the fact that she was quite keen on cleanliness.”
“I wrote that sentence and I put the cup in front of her,” he said.
When the coffee was finished, he gave the cup to hostess to throw away. A few minutes later, a steward returned and asked was the cup his.
He now realised the anxiety he had caused.
“Never again in my life will I treat such subjects with such a superficial attitude in a public space,” Binaschi said. “I am fully conscious that I have made a big mistake. I don’t know how to apologise.”
The judge said it had been a “sick joke” but he took all factors into consideration and dismissed the charge under the Probation Act after the defendant paid the €2,500 to the Capuchin Friary on Bow Street