Wednesday 18 September 2019

'I owe these two an apology': Piers Morgan apologises to 'Gatwick drone' pair released without charge

  • Two people arrested in connection with drone incident released without charge
  • Airport offers a £50,000 reward through Crimestoppers for information
  • Piers Morgan apologises on Twitter: 'I, like most in the media today, owe these two an apology'
Piers Morgan (PA)
Piers Morgan (PA)
Queues of passengers in the check in area at Gatwick Airport when the airport was closed after drones were spotted over the airfield Photo: Thomas Hornall/PA Wire
People wait in the departures area at Gatwick airport (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
The arrivals board at Gatwick Airport this morning, showing cancelled, diverted and delayed flights, as the airport remains closed after drones were spotted over the airfield last night and this morning. Photo: Thomas Hornall/PA Wire
People wait in the departures area at Gatwick airport . (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
Passengers stranded at Gatwick airport Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Passengers sleeping at Gatwick airport Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Passengers sleeping at Gatwick airport Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Gatwick airport remains closed this morning after drones were spotted over the airfield last night and this morning Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire
No fly zone: Passengers caught in the Gatwick chaos wait for more information. Picture: Getty
Passengers stranded at Gatwick airport which has been closed after drones were spotted over the airfield Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Passengers stranded queue for information at Gatwick airport Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Passengers wait around in the South Terminal building at Gatwick Airport REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Denise Calnan, Henry Vaughan and Alexander Britton

Piers Morgan has apologised to a pair who were arrested in connection with drone disruption at Gatwick Airport.

A man and a woman arrested over the disruption caused by drones at Gatwick Airport were released without charge earlier today.

Sussex Police said both the 47-year-old man and 54-year-old woman had co-operated fully and were no longer suspects in the case.

TV presenter Morgan apologised on Twitter for comments he had made about the pair online, accompanied by a photograph of the couple.

"I, like most in the media today, owe these two an apology," he wrote today.

"They’re not the (suspected) drone clowns after all.

"Meanwhile, the real culprit(s) remain at large.. what an ongoing fiasco. Sorry..."

Police in the UK are now continuing their investigation. It comes as the airport offered a £50,000 reward through Crimestoppers for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the chaos.

Around 1,000 flights were cancelled or diverted after drones were spotted inside the perimeter of the UK's second biggest airport on Wednesday and approximately 140,000 passengers were affected.

Police searched a house in Crawley on Saturday as the pair were held on suspicion of "disrupting services of civil aviation aerodrome to endanger or likely to endanger safety of operations or persons".

But on Sunday, Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Tingley said: "Both people have fully co-operated with our enquiries and I am satisfied that they are no longer suspects in the drone incidents at Gatwick.

"It is important to remember that when people are arrested in an effort to make further enquiries it does not mean that they are guilty of an offence and Sussex Police would not seek to make their identity public.

"Our inquiry continues at a pace to locate those responsible for the drone incursions, and we continue to actively follow lines of investigation.

"We ask for the public's continued support by reporting anything suspicious, contacting us with any information in relation to the drone incidents at Gatwick."

The pair, aged 47 and 54 respectively, made no comment as they darted inside their home on Sunday morning, having been arrested on Friday evening following a "tip-off" from a member of the public.

Det Tingley said: "We are not back to square one. Whilst these two people have been in custody, we have a number of lines of inquiry and persons of interest."

Asked about speculation there was never a drone, he said: "Of course, that's a possibility. We are working with human beings saying they have seen something.

"Until we've got more clarity around what they've said, the detail - the time, place, direction of travel, all those types of things - and that's a big task."

But he said one of the "working theories" was that the damaged drone found close to the airport in Horley was responsible for causing the disruption.

He said: "Always look at it with an open mind, but actually it's very basic common sense that a damaged drone, which may have not been there at a particular point in time has now been seen by an occupier, a member of the public, and then they've told us, 'We've found this'.

"Then we go and forensically recover it and do everything we can at that location to try and get a bit more information."

Labour has called for an independent inquiry after accusing the Government of failing to act on the risks posed by drones at Gatwick.

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald claimed there were missed opportunities to prevent the airport from coming under such an attack.

"The Government was repeatedly warned about the risks posed by drones to aviation but failed to act," he said.

"The delay in bringing forward legislation is indicative of this Government's failure to concentrate on the day-to-day business in front of them. They have taken their eye off the ball.

"The scale of disruption is unacceptable and it demands that we find out how this was allowed to happen, which is why Labour are calling for an independent inquiry."

On Saturday, the Times reported that Transport Secretary Chris Grayling had shelved plans to introduce legislation amid pressure on his department, with civil servants being diverted to prepare for Brexit.

But a Department for Transport spokesman said the claims were "a combination of nonsense and gross misrepresentation".

He added: "The drones at Gatwick have been flown illegally. The Government changed the law this year to make it illegal to fly drones within 1,000 meters of an airport or above 400 feet. The law couldn't be any more clear."

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