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Gatwick drone hunt resumes as arrested pair freed

Flights have resumed at Gatwick (John Stillwell/PA)
Flights have resumed at Gatwick (John Stillwell/PA)

By Henry Vaughan

Detectives are examining a damaged drone found close to the last reported sighting at Gatwick Airport after two people held over the disruption were released without charge.

The 47-year-old man and 54-year-old woman were arrested on Friday after a tip-off from a member of the public, while their house in nearby Crawley was searched.

Sussex Police insisted the force was "not back to square one" after ruling out the pair - who made no comment as they darted inside their home yesterday morning - as suspects.

Gatwick Airport has offered a £50,000 reward, through Crimestoppers, and another £10,000 has been put up by the charity's chairman Lord Ashcroft to catch the culprits responsible for the chaos, which affected around 140,000 passengers.

Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Tingley said he hoped the money would persuade someone to come forward with the vital clue.

"We are actively investigating sightings of drone activity at Gatwick Airport following 67 reports from the evening of December 19 to December 21 from the public, passengers, police officers and staff at the airport," he said.

"We are interviewing those who have reported these sightings, are carrying out extensive house-to-house enquiries and carrying out a forensic examination of a damaged drone found near the perimeter of the airport near Horley, which is close to the last reported sighting."

He said there were some "persons of interest", but would not reveal if police were close to making any further arrests.

Around 1,000 flights were cancelled or diverted after drones were spotted inside the perimeter of the UK's second biggest airport on Wednesday.

Mr Tingley said there is no video footage available and investigators are relying on 67 drone sightings by witnesses.

Asked about speculation there was never a drone, he said: "Of course, that's a possibility. We are working with human beings saying they have seen something."

Separately yesterday, a technical glitch temporarily grounded flights at Birmingham Airport. Staff said the disruption began at around 6pm and was cleared around two hours later.

A spokesman said: "Following the earlier air traffic control technical fault, Birmingham Airport has now resolved the issue and operations have now resumed."

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