Heathrow Airport: Mum bit Swiss pilot in cockpit in 'self-defence'

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Henrietta MitaireImage source, Alamy
Image caption,
Henrietta Mitaire said she was 'scared' by how 'aggresive' Captain Guido Keel was being, the court heard

A woman accused of biting a Swiss Air pilot in a row over a child's buggy has told a court she acted in self-defence.

Henrietta Mitaire, 23, and her mother Mary Roberts, 53, are accused of pushing Captain Guido Keel to the floor, scratching and kicking him.

Ms Mitaire told Uxbridge Magistrates' Court her actions arose from "extreme fear" as she "tussled" with the pilot on 2 May last year.

She and Ms Roberts, both from London, deny assaulting Captain Keel.

Before their flight left Zurich, Ms Mitaire had argued with airport staff who had told her to check a pushchair into the plane's hold, the court previously heard.

After landing at Heathrow from Switzerland, she approached the head of cabin crew to discuss the matter further when the captain "interrupted" the conversation.

A statement read to the court alleged that the pilot made "forceful contact" with Ms Mitaire's shoulder so she took out her phone and began recording him.

'Used my teeth'

"This made him angry and he grabbed for my phone and tried to take it to the cockpit," she said.

She said the pair "tussled", and the captain grabbed her, leaving a bruise.

Ms Mitaire, of South Kensington, said in her statement that her hair was pulled and she was "petrified" she might lose consciousness as Captain Keel "kneeled on top of her".

"In a desperate attempt to relieve the pressure so I could breathe, I used my teeth to try and get him off me," she added.

"All my actions during this altercation were in self-defence, most of them in a state of extreme fear."

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Henrietta Mitaiare and Mary Roberts were both removed from the aircraft by police and arrested

James Nash, representing Ms Roberts, of Fulham, challenged the "diverging accounts" of previous witnesses, saying she "was acting in genuine defence of her daughter".

"The captain was pinning her daughter, Henrietta, to the floor and Ms Roberts felt that she had to intervene," he said.

Ben Summers, representing Mitaire, said she was "the sort of person who does stand her ground" and was "demanding answers" from staff which was "not the same as being aggressive".

The prosecution offered no evidence for both defendants on charges of failing to obey the lawful commands of the aircraft's captain.

In his evidence co-pilot Friedrich Prieler made reference to the Tokyo Convention - which grants certain immunities for captains on their aircraft if they believe there is a threat to the safety of persons on board.

Mr Summers argued that the convention "only applies when in flight".

The trial continues.

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