Stansted: Plane Man 'Didn't Mention Bomb'

13 November 2013, 13:26 | Updated: 13 November 2013, 13:37

A passenger on a flight diverted to Essex in a mid-air security alert has told a court that the man at the centre of the scare acted like an "idiot'' but did not make a bomb threat.

Tayyab Subhani, 30, and Mohammed Safdar, 42, were arrested on May 24 after a Boeing 777 heading to Manchester was forced to make an emergency landing at Stansted Airport.

The men, who are from Lancashire, deny endangering the safety of an aircraft by threatening to harm crew and passengers and threatening to blow up the plane.

Prosecutors told the trial at Chelmsford Crown Court that neither man was a terrorist or extremist but cabin crew had been forced to take the threats seriously.

Giving evidence, fellow passenger Ferzana Rana said Safdar had behaved idiotically but she had not felt threatened or intimidated.

She added that, once on the ground, many of the passengers expressed annoyance that the flight had been diverted over a "trivial incident".

The first reference she heard to a bomb came after an announcement was made informing those on-board that the flight had been diverted.

Mrs Rana said: "I heard the men say jokingly between themselves 'I bet they think there's a bomb on the plane'."

She said she had been flying home from Pakistan on flight PK709 with her husband and two young children.

During the flight Safdar became abusive towards cabin crew and refused to return to his seat, she said.

Mrs Rana said Safdar spoke in a mix of English and Urdu as the confrontation escalated.

Mrs Rana said that at one point Safdar, who was returning from his mother's funeral, told a steward "I'm going to kill you'' twice in Urdu.

Asked by Simon Mayo QC, representing Safdar, if the steward had taken the remarks seriously, she said:"No, it was just an idiotic remark."

She added: "Later on, the steward asked me to confirm what I had heard and asked me whether I had heard the word bomb.

"I hadn't heard that word or anything that might suggest the presence of a bomb."

Safdar, a married father of three, of Hallam Crescent, and Subhani, of Townley Street, both in Nelson, Lancashire, claim the allegations are made up and that cabin crew encouraged passengers to corroborate their story.

The pilot, who described the incident as the most serious of his career, contacted UK air traffic control and was instructed to begin emergency procedures, the court heard.

Typhoon fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the flight.

Once on the ground, the aircraft was surrounded by armed police and a full-scale security alert was called.

The men were arrested and hundreds of passengers were forced to remain on board until investigators established there was no danger.

Mrs Rana's husband, Zeeshan Rao, said he had not been "that bothered" by the men's behaviour.

At one point, Safdar had said to the steward: "Who are you? You're just a waiter."

Mr Rao added that the steward had behaved calmly and professionally throughout.

The trial is expected to last five weeks.