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'Disgust' as Brexit banner plane interrupts Jo Cox service

By Kate Ferguson

Published 23/06/2016

The crowd wait for the start of the rally in Trafalgar Square, central London, to celebrate what would have been the 42nd birthday of tragic MP Jo Cox
The crowd wait for the start of the rally in Trafalgar Square, central London, to celebrate what would have been the 42nd birthday of tragic MP Jo Cox
MP Jo Cox
Brendan Cox, the widower of MP Jo, and their two children Cuillin (5) and Lejla (3) prepare to join a floating commemoration at Hermitage Moorings on the River Thames
Singer Lily Allen addresses the rally
Gillian Anderson and Bill Nighy address the rally in Trafalgar Square

Brexit campaigners were branded "disgusting" yesterday after a plane towing a banner urging people to vote to leave the EU repeatedly swooped over a memorial service for Jo Cox.

The aircraft flew overhead trailing a sign with "Take Control #VoteLeave" on it as crowds gathered in Trafalgar Square for a rally for the slain MP.

Onlookers reportedly muttered that the stunt was "disgusting" as the plane repeatedly went overhead as Mrs Cox's husband Brendan paid tribute to his wife on the stage below.

Aircraft manufacturer Britten-Norman Ltd, which is backing Brexit, said it was behind the private flight but insisted it had not arranged the publicity stunt to disrupt the event.

Labour MP Stella Creasy wrote on Twitter: "@voteleave flying your plane over the memorial tribute to Jo Cox in Trafalgar Square is beyond low. Have some self respect and disappear!"

Mirror journalist and political pundit Kevin Maguire added: "People muttered 'disgusting' as the Leave aircraft with the banner flew back over as Jo Cox's husband talked about his wife.

"Somebody in the Leave camp should radio the pilot unless it is deliberately provocative. Back over the event a third time."

Lily Caprani, deputy executive director of Unicef, wrote: "A vote leave plane just flew over the Jo Cox memorial. Seriously. No words for how inappropriate that is. No words."

Tory MP and Remain campaigner Sir Nicholas Soames tweeted: "What absolute s***s."

Charity worker Barton Creeth, who was at the rally, said he "couldn't believe it" when he saw it go overhead three times.

He added: "I was talking to a lot of my colleagues who work in the charity sector and who work for the Labour Party and they just said they were so outraged, that it felt like trolling.

"It just felt really insensitive. The plane flew over three times. The timing was just atrocious."

A spokesman for the official Vote Leave campaign denied it was its plane, saying: "Had we known that these people were planning to do it, we would have asked them not to. We can only apologise on their behalf for any offence caused. We do not think they realised that the service was taking place."

According to the Britten-Norman website, the flight was part of the Isle of Wight-based firm's "Take Control Tour", which has seen one of its Islander aircraft fly over areas including Scotland, north east England and more.

A company spokeswoman said the flight had not been sanctioned by Vote Leave and added: "We understand that during a pre-planned photo opportunity over Westminster today, we were visible from Trafalgar Square and that our flight coincided with an important memorial service.

"The timing of our flight was determined by weather, air traffic control and the prior approval of the Diplomatic Protection Group and required the consent of the Metropolitan Police. We are clearly very disappointed that the timing of the service and our flight have overlapped, but there was no notice requesting the avoidance, and the coincidence of timing could not have been known by the crew flying the sortie. Our sincere apologies."

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