Gatwick drone arrest couple feel 'completely violated'

  • Published
Media caption,

Elaine Kirk and Paul Gait were released without charge

The couple arrested over the drone chaos at Gatwick Airport have said they feel "completely violated".

Paul Gait and Elaine Kirk, who were released without charge, told Sky News their "privacy and identity" had been "completely exposed" after being named in the media and their home searched.

"We are deeply distressed, as are our family and friends, and we are currently receiving medical care.

"The way we were initially perceived was disgusting," they said.

The couple, from Crawley, West Sussex, whose names have not been revealed by the BBC until now, added: "Those that knew us didn't doubt us for a second."

Speaking outside their home, Mr Gait, 47, and Ms Kirk, 54, said they had been "totally overwhelmed" by the support they had received from people around the world.

"We would ask that the press please respect our privacy and leave us to try and get through Christmas as best we can," they said.

Passengers faced three days of disruption last week when about 1,000 flights were affected during 36 hours of chaos when drones were sighted near the runway.

The airport has spent £5m since Wednesday on new equipment and technology to prevent copycat attacks.

Security minister Ben Wallace said the government was "able to now deploy detection systems throughout the UK" to combat the threat.

"The huge proliferation of such devices, coupled with the challenges of deploying military counter measures into a civilian environment, means there are no easy solutions," he said.

"Those people who chose to use drones either recklessly or for criminal purposes can expect the most severe sentence and jail time when caught," he added.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The airport was forced to shut its runway for spells on Wednesday and Friday and for all of Thursday

The airport has offered a £50,000 reward, through Crimestoppers, and another £10,000 has been put up by the charity's chairman Lord Ashcroft to catch the culprits responsible for the drama, which affected some 140,000 passengers.

Sussex Police said a damaged drone found near the perimeter of the airport near Horley on Saturday morning, close to the last reported sighting, was being forensically examined.

The force acknowledged that its suggestion, made on Sunday, that there may never have been a drone at Gatwick was down to "poor communications".

Earlier, Deputy Chief Constable Jo Shiner stated there were numerous illegal drone sightings at the airport over three days from 19 to 21 December, discounting any doubt over possible sightings.

There were more than 200 sightings since the first drone was spotted, with police taking 67 statements, including from fellow officers and airport staff.

"The impact of this criminal and reckless behaviour has been enormous and we are determined to locate those responsible to bring them to justice," she said.

Gatwick said it had taken the necessary actions to ensure the safety of passengers, and it was clear there were "multiple confirmed sightings of drone activity".

Authorities finally regained control over the airfield early on Friday after the Army deployed unidentified military technology.

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