Police say Gatwick drones probe ongoing

Police officers stand near equipment on the rooftop of a building at London Gatwick Airport, south of London, on Dec. 21, 2018, as flights resumed following the closing of the airfield due to a drones flying. (AFP)
Updated 24 December 2018

Police say Gatwick drones probe ongoing

  • The drone crisis led to a series of shutdowns at the country's second-busiest airport

LONDON: Sussex Police insist investigations into drone sightings around London's Gatwick Airport are ongoing despite a comment from a senior detective that there may not have been any drones flying over the airport after all. 
The drone crisis led to a series of shutdowns at the country's second-busiest airport over a three-day period last week at, which left tens of thousands of holidaymakers stranded at the height of the Christmas travel season.
The airport was operating normally Monday, but military equipment remains in place to deter and track any fresh incursions.
In a statement on Twitter late Sunday, police said 67 drone sightings had been made by the public, passengers, police officers as well as staff at the airport, which is about 30 miles (45 kilometers) south of London.
Police said: "We have recovered a damaged drone, we're conducting house to house enquiries & taking statements from all who reported sightings."
The clarification was deemed necessary after Sussex Chief Detective Jason Tingley raised eyebrows — and drew wide criticism in the British press — when he said it's a "possibility" that there had not been drones in the area at all.
He was referring to the fact that the reported drone sightings came from human beings, not from electronic tracking equipment that could provide independent verification.
Nonetheless, the prospect that a travel breakdown that stranded or delayed more than 100,000 passengers might have been based on mistaken reports of drone activity caused widespread consternation.
Police were also criticized for arresting a man and a woman in connection to the drone flights and then releasing them without any charge after their names and photos had been published in many newspapers.
It is not clear whether the damaged drone discovered near Gatwick Airport will provide forensic clues that could lead police to locate the perpetrators of the worst reported drone activity to hit a major international airport.
Police say it was found in the area near where the last drone sighting occurred on Friday evening. The drone is being tested for DNA, fingerprints, and other evidence.


Hong Kong protesters aim for big turnout at rare sanctioned march

Updated 10 min 4 sec ago

Hong Kong protesters aim for big turnout at rare sanctioned march

  • March comes two weeks after pro-establishment parties got a drubbing in local elections
  • Millions have hit the streets in protests fueled by years of growing fears that China is stamping out the city’s liberties

HONG KONG: Hong Kong democracy protesters are hoping for huge crowds later Sunday at a rally they have billed as a “last chance” for the city’s pro-Beijing leaders in a major test for the six-month-old movement.
The march comes two weeks after pro-establishment parties got a drubbing in local elections, shattering government claims that a “silent majority” opposed the protests.
The semi-autonomous financial hub has been battered by increasingly violent demonstrations in the starkest challenge the city has presented to Beijing since its 1997 handover from Britain.
Millions have hit the streets in protests fueled by years of growing fears that authoritarian China is stamping out the city’s liberties.
The last fortnight has seen a marked drop in street battles and protester vandalism after the landslide win by pro-democracy candidates.
But activists say anger is building once more after chief executive Carrie Lam and Beijing ruled out any further concessions despite the election defeat.
The city’s police have taken the unusual step of allowing the Civil Human Rights Front to hold a march through the main island on Sunday — the first time the group has been granted permission since mid-August.
Organizers have called on Lam to meet their demands which include an independent inquiry into the police’s handling of the protests, an amnesty for those arrested, and fully free elections.
“This is the last chance given by the people to Carrie Lam,” CHRF leader Jimmy Sham said on Friday.
Hong Kong’s protests are largely leaderless and organized online. They were initially sparked by a now-abandoned attempt to allow extraditions to the mainland but have since morphed into a popular revolt against Beijing’s rule.
The CHRF, which advocates non-violence, has been the main umbrella group behind record-breaking rallies earlier in the summer that saw huge crowds regularly march in searing heat.
Authorities have repeatedly banned major rallies in recent months citing the risk of violence from hardcore protesters.
Large crowds have simply ignored the bans, sparking near-weekly tear gas and petrol bomb clashes that have upended Hong Kong’s reputation for stability and helped tip the city into recession.
Sunday afternoon’s march will follow a well-worn route on the main island from Victoria Park to the heart of the commercial district.
It comes a day before the city marks the six-month anniversary of the protest movement in which some 6,000 people have been arrested and hundreds injured, including police.
Online forums used to organize the movement’s more radical wing have vowed to target the morning commute on Monday if there is no response from Lam.
Years of huge, peaceful democracy marches have made little headway, leading to increased radicalization among some Hong Kong protesters and a greater willingness to embrace violent tactics.
But there is little sign Lam is willing to budge, leading to fears the lull in street clashes will be temporary.
Since the local elections the city’s chief executive has remained steadfast in her opposition to further concessions and Beijing has stuck by her even as she languishes with record low approval ratings.
The police force’s reputation has also taken a hammering.
A new poll released on Friday by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Programme, which has tracked public sentiment for years, showed record disapproval for the force with 40 percent of respondents now giving the force the lowest mark of zero.
Over the last two days the city’s new police chief Chris Tang has been in Beijing where he met with senior party figures including public security chief Zhao Kezhi who gave his “strongest backing” according to official reports.
Tang, who has continued his predecessor’s policy of rejecting calls for an independent inquiry, said his officers would clamp down on any violence at Sunday’s march.
“If there is arson, petrol bombs or damage to shops, we will take action,” he told reporters in Beijing.
“But for minor issues, we will handle in a flexible and humane manner,” he added.