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Mother convicted of attacking airline captain in row over pushchair

Henrietta Mitaire, 23, pushed Captain Guido Keel to the floor, then scratched and kicked him.

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Henrietta Mitaire, 23, (left) and her mother Mary Roberts, 53, outside Uxbridge Magistrates Court (Tess De La Mare/PA)

Henrietta Mitaire, 23, (left) and her mother Mary Roberts, 53, outside Uxbridge Magistrates Court (Tess De La Mare/PA)

Henrietta Mitaire, 23, (left) and her mother Mary Roberts, 53, outside Uxbridge Magistrates Court (Tess De La Mare/PA)

A young mother has been convicted of attacking an airline captain after she was not allowed to store her child’s pushchair in the cabin during a flight.

Henrietta Mitaire, 23, pushed Captain Guido Keel to the floor, then scratched and kicked him after her plane arrived at Heathrow Airport on May 2 2019.

Her mother, Mary Roberts, 53, was also accused of assault after she tried to intervene but was acquitted after trial.

Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court heard that Mitaire had approached a flight attendant before the aircraft left Zurich airport and asked to put her three-year-old’s buggy in the cabin rather than the aircraft’s hold.

She complained it was “too expensive” to pay for the item to go into the hold.

Two members of airport staff then arrived and argued with Mitaire before her mother stepped in to try and calm her daughter down.

As passengers disembarked at Heathrow, Mitaire approached the same staff member again and asked for the names of the Swiss airport workers to make a complaint.

Cabin manager Ali Chkerdaa said Mitaire had told him “Swiss people are racist, because she was a black woman travelling with a child”.

The row prompted Capt Keel to intervene and touch Mitaire on the shoulder when he asked her to leave the flight.

Mitaire grabbed him by the arm and followed him into the cockpit when he tried to walk away while also trying to film him on her phone.

In the ensuing tussle she ended up on top of him.

Roberts also went into the cockpit where she joined the struggle and witnesses heard her shouting “get off my daughter”.

Capt Keel sustained scratches to his face and arm and a bite on his upper arm.

A significant number of people were inconvenienced and you caused distress to the staff who had to deal with the incident on the day in questionJudge Wright

Mitaire denied assault by beating but was convicted after a two-day trial.

She claimed in a prepared statement she was acting in self-defence after Capt Keel “forcefully” made contact with her shoulder and tried to take her phone when she started filming.

Mitaire declined to give live evidence to the trial but claimed the captain was “pulling my hair and dragging me to the ground”.

“I ended up on the floor with him kneeling on top of me with his full weight,” she said, adding that she could not breathe properly.

She said: “In a desperate attempt to relieve the pressure so I could breathe, I used my teeth to try and get him off me.”

Her mother denied the same charges, telling police she thought her daughter’s life was in danger.

On Thursday, district judge Deborah Wright convicted Mitaire of assault, but acquitted Roberts of the same charge.

In her ruling, Judge Wright said Capt Keel had been “trying to protect himself from a very loud and very angry woman who had refused to leave the plane”.

She said: “She was shouting, recording him and seemed intent upon pursuing him.

“There is nothing in the recordings I have seen that the captain reacted in any way other than as a professional.”

Clearing Roberts of the same charge, she said only one witness had claimed to have seen the defendant kick the captain, despite many people being present in a very small place.

The two women were also charged with failing to obey the lawful commands of an aircraft’s captain but the charge was dropped by the prosecution.

Roberts, of Elswick Street, Imperial Wharf, south-west London, shouted: “Adolf Hitler is ruling England! Mussolini is ruling England!” when she was asked to leave the court room.

Handing Mitaire a four-month sentence suspended for one year, Judge Wright said: “You behaved in a way that was completely unacceptable and caused significant injury and the whole thing was caused, in effect, because you could not take your buggy on to the plane with you.

“When you were asked to leave the plane, instead of being sensible and saying ‘I will make my complaint at a later stage’, you escalated matters.”

The court heard that the assault caused the following flight to be cancelled.

She said she had taken into account the fact that Mitaire was a woman of “some vulnerabilities” but added that “these matters should not be in the public domain”.

Speaking outside court, Mitaire said she would appeal to the crown court, saying: “I think the whole case was biased from the start.”

“It is going to be extremely difficult to raise the funds but I’ve seen huge numbers of people manhandled and belittled by people in a position of power who just have to put up with it because some people have power and they don’t,” Mitaire, who said she wanted to be a lawyer, said.

Mitaire, of Queen’s Gate Place in South Kensington, was also ordered to comply with a tagged curfew at her home address between 7pm and 7am for six months.

She was further ordered to pay £1,500 court costs, a £115 surcharge and £1,000 compensation to Capt Keel – a total of £2,615 – immediately, or serve three months in prison.

PA