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Some Gatwick drone sightings may have been police drones, chief constable says

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Some of drones spotted near Gatwick Airport during the pre-Christmas disruption may have belonged to police, the chief constable of Sussex Police has said.

Officers from Sussex Police have searched 26 potential launch sites near the airport, but have not located the device that disrupted about 1,000 flights on 19 and 20 December.

The incident ruined the travel plans of more than 140,000 people.

Two drones found near the airport have now been ruled out of the investigation.

Chief Constable Giles York told the BBC: “I don’t think we have found the drone responsible for this at this time.

“I think the fact that we have found two drones so far as a result of this does show the extent of the search that has been carried out.

“I am led to believe that we are able to rule those drones out of this investigation at this time.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 21: Passengers wait in the South Terminal building at London Gatwick Airport after flights resumed today on December 21, 2018 in London, England. Authorities at Gatwick have reopened the runway after drones were spotted over the airport on the night of December 19. The shutdown sparked a succession of delays and diversions in the run up to the Christmas getaway, in what authorities have called a 'deliberate act' to disrupt the airport. Police continue their search for
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Passengers were left stranded overnight

Police previously said it was “possible” there was no drone at all – though they later backtracked.

Mr York said he was “absolutely certain that there was a drone flying throughout the period that the airport was closed”.

Police received 115 reports of sightings in the area, including 92 which have been confirmed as coming from “credible people”, Mr York said.

He said: “Of course, we will have launched our own Sussex Police drones at the time with a view to investigate, with a view to engage, with a view to survey the area looking for the drone, so there could be some level of confusion there.”

He added that new military technology was in place in Gatwick to tackle rogue drones.

Gatwick Airport is offering a £50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

Two people who were arrested over the disruption have now been released without charge.

Mr York said he was “really sorry” for the pair who said they felt “violated” after being questioned in custody for 36 hours before being freed.



The couple arrested and then cleared by police over the drone disruption at Gatwick airport say they feel "completely violated"




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Gatwick couple feel ‘completely violated’

But the chief constable said he was “convinced that the grounds for arrest – the lawful suspicion – in the first instance was well founded”.

He added: “I’m really sorry for what he has experienced and the feeling of violation around it.

“I am really sorry for what he went through, but the reason why we held him was so that we could dispel everything in the first instance.

“What might have been worse as an experience for him would have been to be released under investigation still.

“We are able to exhaust all our lines of inquiry on that first instance and, however hard it is, able to release him from police custody saying he is no longer a suspect in this line of inquiry.

“That’s why we took the time – in order to allow him the best opportunity to put his life back on the rails.”

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