Sussex Police told to step aside in Gatwick probe after questioning if drone existed in bungled investigation

Sussex Police told to step aside in Gatwick probe after questioning if drone existed in bungled investigation

Around 14,000 people were left facing delayed or cancelled flights after dozens of sightings of a drone forced the closure of Britain's second busiest airport just days before Christmas.

Police have been blasted over the "appalling investigation" as Gatwick Airport offered a £50,000 reward to catch the culprit still at large.

Paul Gait, 47, and wife Elaine Kirk, 54, who were arrested at their Crawley home on Friday night over the attacks, were released without charge this week.

MPs have now called for Sussex Police to hand the investigation over to Scotland Yard after arresting an innocent couple and officers saying there may have never been a drone in the first place.

John Woodcock MP, a member of the Commons home affairs committee, said the "gap in expertise" needed to be filled.

He told The Daily Telegraph: "This whole sorry episode shows why we need a nationally agreed and understood robust procedure for dealing with incidents like this.

"The country has been caught on the hop. There may be a case for a different police force [to get involved]."

It comes after Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Tingley, of Sussex Police, said there was "no available footage and they are relying on witness accounts."

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

The force was later forced to put out a correction on Christmas Eve, confirming there had been 67 sightings from December 19 to 21.

Ministers for the Department of Transport have previously branded police communication a "mess up" – after they backtracked over whether there was a drone in the first place.

In an hour-long conference call with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, it was acknowledged police "have not handled their communication response well".

Government sources told The Sun that a combination of wrong police protocols and poor media management caused the slip-up.

And Paul Gait, 47, and wife Elaine Kirk, 54, broke down outside their home this week as they revealed the toll of being falsely accused in the drone probe had taken.

Holding back tears, Paul said: "We are deeply distressed, as are our family and friends. We are currently receiving medical care."

Standing next to wife Elaine, who placed a hand on her husband's shoulder as he read the emotional statement, Paul said they both felt extremely "exposed".

Cops stormed their home and forensics spent all of Saturday rifling through their house and car as they continued to question the couple – who had alibis from pals.

In July, the Government restricted drones to 400ft and banned them from flying within 1km of an airport.

Recreational drones are fitted with GPS “geo-fencing” preventing them from flying near restricted airspace, including airports.

If convicted, the drone Grinch could face up to five years in prison.

Professional drone pilot Carys Kaiser said the drones were not the work of an amateur doing it for fun.

She told Mail Online: "It is definitely something that is more organised in some capacity because obviously the drones that I fly and the drones that most people fly in the UK have this geo-fencing and we can't get them to take off that close to an airport."

Meanwhile ex-army captain Richard Gill said a genius educated to PhD level may be responsible.



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