Craig Sturt is accused of slipping through Heathrow Airport‘s security checks without presenting any documents before boarding a British Airways flight to John F Kennedy airport, again without having his ticket checked.
The 46-year-old was stopped on arrival at the airport in New York by a gun-toting officer on Christmas Eve and sent back to the UK on a charter flight.
Mr Sturt was arrested upon landing on Christmas day and charged with offences under the Aviation Security Act.
Accused of boarding the Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner “without having paid for a ticket”, Sturt allegedly slipped through checks by walking closely behind other passengers or “tailgating” them. He found a seat on the fully booked plane after several passengers missed their connecting flights, reported The Sun.
He admitted the offences at Uxbridge Magistrates’ court and was to be sentenced last month. However, more embarrassment followed for UK officials after he failed to appear before the court. According to reports, the Metropolitan Police had taken Mr Sturt for treatment at a hospital in Reading, from which he escaped.
Home secretary James Cleverly is reportedly aware of the incident and has demanded to know how the “humiliating fiasco” was able to happen, sources told the Mail.
Thames Valley Police issued an arrest warrant against Mr Sturt after he was reported missing on 25 January. “Please can you help us find Craig?” it read.
“The 46-year-old is 6ft, slim, with short dark brown hair. When he was last seen, he was wearing a grey jacket, a top, black jogging bottoms and white trainers.”
He was last seen in Reading but is from Slough and also has links to Heathrow and the Tottenham Court Road in London, read the appeal. The post warned people against approaching him and said members of the public should call the police if he is spotted.
The Metropolitan Police have taken over the investigation as of 31 January.
“On 24 December 2023, police were made aware of an alleged breach of security at Heathrow Airport and a male was subsequently arrested and later charged with fraud and Aviation Security Act offences,” it said in a statement.
“We continue to work with all our partners to review and enhance the already robust security measures in place which are kept under constant review by the wider security partnership.”
Mr Sturt’s brother Lee Smith, 52, told The Sun on Sunday that he “couldn’t believe what [he] was hearing” when police contacted him to say they were hunting his brother.
“It’s ridiculous this could happen. If Craig, with a troubled past, could dodge security then presumably anyone else with sinister motives could do the same. Heads should roll. How has this been allowed to happen?”
Heathrow Airport said Mr Sturt would have gone through security, but it remained unclear how he was able to avoid document checks either before and after.
“We continue to work with all our partners to review and enhance the already robust security measures in place which are kept under constant review by the wider security partnership,” said a Heathrow spokesperson.
A British Airways spokesperson also issued a statement saying they “are assisting the authorities with their investigation”.