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Explosives alert sent by telex . . . to baggage firm

A baggage-handling company missed the crucial telex that was sent to warn Irish authorities that explosives were on a flight to Dublin.

As the blame game into the Slovakian bomb fiasco continued, it emerged that the police officer who "forgot" to remove the deadly RDX from a passenger's bag will face prosecution.

Senior police chiefs in Slovakia have now admitted that they would not have allowed the flight to leave Poprad-Tatry Airport if their officers had alerted them to the mistake.

They have also produced a copy of the telex that was sent to warn Dublin that the explosive material was on board a flight to here.

However, while Slovak Border Police claim that the notice should have been sufficient warning, they actually sent it to baggage-handling company, Servisair.

The company confirmed to the Herald today that they did receive the message but refused to say exactly when it was picked up.

A spokesperson said: "All that information is now confidential because it's in the hands of the police."

The revelation came as a massive blame game developed between the Irish and Slovak authorities.

The Dublin Airport Authority today reiterated that the first it knew of the danger was on Tuesday morning when they notified garda and a major security operation was launched.

A DAA spokesperson said that they "definitely did not" receive any other communication from Slovakia.

She also confirmed that Servisair did not forward them the telex or inform airport police of its contents.

In turn, Servisair said they received hundreds of telex messages everyday and said that the airline involved "did not follow emergency procedure".

Their representative said: "The captain knew about this and did not tell our staff. I think you have to direct the question to the airline itself. He could have refused to fly the plane."

For its part Danube Wings say that the safety of passengers was never compromised.

It said: "The crew of the aircraft for departure from the airport Poprad-Tatry informed the control tower that one of the checked luggage in the baggage compartment of the aircraft had a benign sample exercise for dogs.

"This information does not conflict with safety regulations and does not hinder the continuation of the flight."

Yesterday, the head of border policing in Slovakia offered his resignation. However, the Government has decided not to fire Tibor Mako and will instead punish an officer who has not been named.

The officer's superiors admitted yesterday that they would have grounded the plane until the explosives were recovered if they had been alerted -- but it was not until Monday before they found out.

The telex sent by security in Poprad Airport was not marked urgent. It said: "We would kindly ask you to return that sample with Flight No V58231."

The message which never reached Airport Police Control was written in bad English and described the RDX as a "forgotten sample of explosive material".

kdoyle@herald.ie


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