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Air passenger held over 'bomb hoax'

A passenger on a plane which landed at Manchester Airport with an RAF Typhoon escort has been arrested on suspicion of making a hoax bomb threat.

Fears were initially raised over "a possible device on board" by the pilot on board flight QR23 from Doha, Qatar, as it approached the airport.

Dramatic video footage and photos showed an RAF jet accompanying the Qatar Airways Airbus A330 as it made its descent , while passengers reported a man being removed from the plane after it landed safely .

Less than hour after the first reports, Greater Manchester Police confirmed the arrest was related to a suspected hoax.

Before confirming the passenger had been arrested on suspicion of a hoax threat, GMP said: "A passenger has been taken off the plane by officers at Manchester Airport. We will work to get others off as swiftly and safely as possible."

Qatar Airways said 269 passengers were on board.

The airline said in a statement: "Qatar Airways can confirm that flight QR23 from Doha to Manchester, an Airbus A330-300, landed safely at Manchester Airport ahead of its scheduled arrival time of 1315.

"There were 269 passengers and 13 Qatar Airways crew on board.

"The crew on-board had received a threat about a possible device on board and Qatar Airways immediately took all the necessary precautions to alert British authorities.

"The crew is now fully assisting police at the airport with their inquiries. The safety and well-being of our passengers and crew is our top priority. As this is a matter of a police investigation, we cannot comment further at this time."

Witness Paul Bell, who was on his way to the airport in a taxi, told Sky News that he saw the Typhoon, from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, meet the passenger plane.

He said: "We heard the fighter jet circling over Stockport and literally 10 minutes later we saw the plane coming in being followed by it.

"We saw the Typhoon coming in, literally flying around the aeroplane.

"It then pinged up on the sat nav that the airport is on lock-down."

An RAF spokesman said: "We can confirm that Typhoon aircraft were launched from RAF Coningsby in their quick reaction alert role this afternoon to investigate a civilian aircraft whose pilot had requested assistance.

"The aircraft was escorted to Manchester where it landed safely. This incident is now being handled by the civilian authorities."

Manchester Airport said nine incoming flights had to be diverted to other airports, with five of these landing at Leeds Bradford airport.

One of the flights that landed on time at Manchester once the emergency was over was the plane carrying Manchester United back from Florida where the team has been engaged in a pre-season friendly tournament.

"There are a few minor delays to outgoing flights but we're pretty much back to normal," said an airport spokesman.

At the airport terminal loved ones of the passengers waited anxiously for news.

Pauline Cox, from Chester, waiting for her son, Matthew Cox, 24, travelling back after a three-week trip to Thailand, said: "Nobody has been out from Manchester Airport to tell us anything.

"Parents have been waiting, two, three hours.

"When we asked we were told they were in a remote location for security reasons.

"We have heard there's a bomb and our innocent children are sat on that plane."

Mrs Cox said her son and the other passengers were going through passport control and baggage reclaim with all the other travellers.

She added: "I'm just so frustrated they have been through that ordeal and just treated with not the respect they deserve, that's not how you treat victims. They are victims in this."

Arthur Smee, 58, a hospital porter from Penmaenmawr, North Wales, was waiting for his daughter, Lisa, 25, to arrive when he heard about a bomb scare on the plane.

Mr Smee said: "Some people were stood around talking and some had pictures of the plane being followed by a military plane - you just think the worst don't you?

"I'm just glad she got in touch. She said armed police have been on the plane and taken somebody off.

"They were just sat there for ages then put on a bus."

Plane passenger Aurang Zeb, 60, returning from a holiday to his home in Bradford, said: "I thought there was something wrong because there was a jet flying so near."

Mr Zeb said the plane landed and was taken to an area well away from the terminal and other planes, where they waited for 45 minutes then moved again closer to the terminal.

Mr Zeb added: "Then I saw all the police with guns. Lots of police everywhere.

"Kids were crying, some people looked very worried because of rumours there's a bomb on the plane."

Mr Zeb said two armed police then came on and removed the suspect passenger.

"They sat him up and said, 'Put your hands up'. He did not say anything.

"People were still worried something might be on board.

"There was a rumour of a bomb on the plane so people are scared, thank God for that not happening."

William McDade, 60, from Perth, Australia, over visiting family in Elderslie near Glasgow, said: "When you are sitting on a plane there's not much you can do, you have just got to sit there.

"I just thought it was an unruly passenger, a drunk. When he stood up he didn't appear to be drunk, he put his hands on his head straight away.

"There was no commotion on the plane whatsoever."

Manju Geo, from India visiting family in Stoke said: "At least two police came on and took one man off called Mr Roy.

"We were told he was writing some notes on the flight and the air hostess found that."

Matthew Cox, 24, from Chester, said after landing the pilot addressed the passengers: "We were told by the pilot everybody should stay seated, nobody should move, then police came inside the plane.

"They arrested the man and took him and the police came on again and said, 'Go' three rows at a time."

Passengers said two armed police arrested the suspect, who was ordered to put his hands on his head before being led away.

Mr Cox added: "He was very very compliant. They asked him to put his hands on his head and he submitted himself to a search.

"There was a general kind of nervousness but there was no full scale panic once on the ground."

Mr Cox said all the passengers' luggage was searched before they were allowed to leave the airport.

Chief Superintendent John O'Hare, of Greater Manchester Police, said: "Today's incident at the Manchester Airport has received widespread coverage and interest so it is right we update everybody.

"We can confirm the incident is over and it's business as usual at the airport.

"The incident arose when the pilot received information about a possible device on board the plane, having been handed a note from a passenger.

"As a result, a full emergency activation commenced that involved the aircraft being escorted in by the RAF before specialist officers boarded and subsequently made an arrest.

"A 47-year-old man from the North West has been arrested on suspicion of making a bomb hoax and remains in police custody for questioning.

"A full search of the aircraft has now finished and nothing suspicious was found."

RAF jets were launched 20 times in 2011, 21 in 2012, and 17 in 2013, in response to alerts, according to the Ministry of Defence. Figures were not available for how often these turned into interceptions such as today's.

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