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Face of man whose 'demand for nuts cost airline £500k'

By Paul Higgins

Published 15/10/2015

Jeremiah Thede leaves Antrim Crown Court [File photo]
Jeremiah Thede leaves Antrim Crown Court [File photo]

This is the first picture of the American man who cost an airline up to £500,000 in an alleged air rage incident which grounded a transatlantic flight.

Californian Jeremiah Mathis Thede had been due to be arraigned on two charges at Antrim Crown Court yesterday.

But due to ongoing industrial action by criminal barristers in protest at reduced legal aid fees, the case was adjourned.

Thede, from The Alameda in Berkeley, California, is charged with endangering the safety of the aircraft and common assault on June 20 this year.

The 42-year-old was a passenger on a United Airlines plane which had been en route from Rome to Chicago but had to dump 50,000 litres of fuel before making an unscheduled stop at Belfast International Airport. It is reported to have cost the airline up to £500,000.

As the crew would have exceeded their legal flying hours if the aircraft had recommenced the journey straight away, 282 passengers were forced to wait almost 24 hours before the plane could take off, with many having to sleep on the terminal floors.

Previous courts have heard allegations that Thede flew into a rage over demands for "nuts and crackers", forcing the pilot to divert to Aldergrove after concerns were raised by cabin crew and other passengers.

An officer from the Belfast International Airport Constabulary described how the incident unfolded when Thede allegedly got up 15 minutes after taking off from Rome at a time when the seatbelt lights were still illuminated, demanding "nuts or crackers".

Thede refused to sit back down again until he obtained a snack and the officer said a member of crew managed to "appease" the passenger by giving him some nuts and he then retook his seat.

However, 10 minutes later he was demanding more nuts and crackers.

When told he could only have more if there were packets left over after the other passengers had theirs, Thede apparently said: "I can have as much nuts and crackers as I f****** want."

Thede is accused of common assault on the air stewardess he was dealing with but it is accepted that no blow was struck and the decision was taken to divert.

Yesterday a prosecuting lawyer submitted there was a prima facie case against Thede, a submission which defence lawyer Aaron Thompson took no issue with.

In court, Thede's defence solicitor confirmed that she had explained the reasons why his arraignment could not take place and in releasing him on continuing bail, Judge Donna McColgan QC ordered him to come back to court on November 20.

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