The startling claim came as investigating officers released two people without charge and insisted they were not back to square one. However, when pressed on whether there may not have been a drone at all an officer admitted that was a possibility. Now police have been forced to defend their investigation amid suspicions the 67 reported drone sightings were all false alarms.
Detective Chief Superintendent Jason 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.”
When asked if there may not have been a drone, he added: “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.”
This morning, police released 47-year-old window fitter Paul Gait and his wife Elaine Kirk, 54, saying they were no longer suspects.
They had been questioned for 36 hours after being following a tip-off from the public.
The couple were held on suspicion of what police are calling a “deliberate act of disruption.
Mr Tingley did not publicly apologise to the couple for their arrest but did thank them for co-operating fully with his investigation.
Police have found parts of a damaged drone close to the airport and are also working with the theory that it was responsible for causing the disruption which caused mayhem after around 1,000 flights were cancelled.
Mr Tingley added police were looking at the situation open-mindedly.
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.”
Crimestoppers has put up a £50,000 reward for any information that leads to a successful prosecution of anyone suspected of carrying out this week’s drone disruption.
Mr Tingley is hopeful that will provide results and added police were concerned vital evidence may have been washed away by wet weather over the weekend.
He also could not rule out further copycat culprits but moved to reassure passengers the police have a tactical response planned.
Mr Tingley said: “Someone, somewhere knows either the perpetrator or perpetrators responsible for this, or has information relating to these incidents.
“But secondly, our tactical response, should there be any more drone sightings, is still in place.”
Published at Sun, 23 Dec 2018 21:03:00 +0000