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Flight diverted to Belfast after man 'demands more nuts or crackers', court hears

By Nevin Farrell

Published 22/06/2015

Passengers sleeping on the floor at Belfast International Airport on Saturday night after their flight was diverted
Passengers sleeping on the floor at Belfast International Airport on Saturday night after their flight was diverted

A plane passenger who was allegedly disruptive after demanding he should be served more "nuts or crackers" led to a trans-Atlantic jet being diverted to Belfast International Airport at a cost of up to £350,000, a court heard on Monday.

Jeremiah Mathis Thede (42), of The Alameda, Berkeley in California, appeared at Coleraine Magistrates Court charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft, disruptive behaviour onboard an aircraft and common assault against a female cabin crew member.

Objecting to bail, Constable William Robinson of Belfast International Airport Constabulary said a flight from Rome to Chicago was flying north west of Scotland on Saturday when the pilot decided to divert to Belfast because of Thede's behaviour.

The police officer said the pilot had to dump 50,000 litres of fuel so the plane could land safely and the cost of the diversion was between £300,000-£350,000.

Thede, who was taken off the plane and into custody, appeared in the dock wearing a grey sweatshirt and bottoms and the constable said he believed he could connect him to the charges.

A prosecutor said she was objecting to bail and the constable told the court how the flight came into Belfast at 7pm on Saturday after being diverted because of a report of a disruptive passenger.

He said Thede had been disorderly towards cabin crew and 50 minutes into the flight he had got up out of his seat despite a seat belt sign being illuminated and he wouldn't return to his seat "until he was given some nuts or crackers".

The accused was appeased by staff but returned to ask for more snacks and was told he could get some more if there were any left after other passengers got some.

The police officer alleged Thede then said: "I can have as much f--king nuts or crackers as I want" and the cabin crew member "felt threatened".

When another member of the crew was called Thede was "aggressive" and because of the way the accused "was getting on" by continuously getting up and down and lifting bags and blocking aisles, and at one stage he "squared up", the captain was alerted and the decision taken to land in Belfast.

The officer said 268 passengers had to sleep on the floor of the airport terminal because no hotel rooms could be found.

He said Thede told police the matter was a "conspiracy theory against him".

The officer said Thede had also lifted his middle finger right up to the face of a woman who had a camera.

Defence barrister Aaron Thompson said the diversion decision was a "big" one which would have to be stood over.

Constable Robinson said the captain had asked a group of males to sit around Thede "in case he became physically violent" during the flight.

The officer confirmed that during the incidents nobody was struck by Thede.

The defence barrister said that as far as his client was concerned he had been on a flight to America and "has done nothing wrong and this was an over-reaction by the staff on the plane".

Mr Thompson said the only objection to bail was that his client would abscond and he said if given bail Thede could rent an address in Northern Ireland and surrender his passport until the case is dealt with.

Deputy District Judge Chris Holmes said subject to a background check coming back negative and an address being found that would be fine.

However, in the mean time, he said the authorities should carry out a psychiatric assessment of the accused and remanded him in custody to appear via video link at Antrim Magistrates Court on Tuesday June 30.

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