A man arrested after a suspected bomb hoax on a UK-bound flight has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act, police said.
The 47-year-old from the North West was arrested by armed officers who greeted flight QR23 from Doha, Qatar, when it arrived at Manchester Airport yesterday, escorted by an RAF Typhoon jet (pictured).
Greater Manchester Police said today that he had been sectioned.
A spokesman said: “Following his arrest he was assessed by medical staff and again by a mental health team.
“He was subsequently sectioned to allow for a fuller assessment and appropriate treatment.”
The alert was sparked by fears of “a possible device on board” but Greater Manchester Police pronounced the Airbus A330-300 clear after searching it.
Some of the 269 passengers on board the flight from the Gulf described seeing the fighter from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire come close to the civilian aircraft as it flew towards Manchester, with pictures and video posted online.
Aurang Zeb, 60, who was returning from a holiday to his home in Bradford, said: “I thought there was something wrong because there was a jet flying so near.”
He said the plane landed and was taken to an area well away from the terminal and other planes, where they waited for 45 minutes, then moved again closer to the terminal.
Mr Zeb added: “Then I saw all the police with guns. Lots of police everywhere.
“Kids were crying, some people looked very worried because of rumours there’s a bomb on the plane.”
Mr Zeb said two armed police then came on and removed the suspect passenger.
“They sat him up and said ‘Put your hands up’. He did not say anything.
“People were still worried something might be on board.
“There was a rumour of a bomb on the plane so people are scared. Thank God for that not happening.”
Passengers said two armed police arrested the suspect, who was ordered to put his hands on his head before being led away.
Indian Manju Geo, who was coming to the UK to visit family in Stoke, said: “At least two police came on and took one man off called Mr Roy.
“We were told he was writing some notes on the flight and the air hostess found that.”
Manchester Airport said nine incoming flights had to be diverted to other airports, with five of these landing at Leeds Bradford Airport.
One of the flights that landed on time at Manchester once the emergency was over was the plane carrying Manchester United back from Florida, where the team has been engaged in a pre-season friendly tournament.
Last night, GMP chief superintendent John O’Hare said: “A 47-year-old man from the North West has been arrested on suspicion of making a bomb hoax and remains in police custody for questioning.
“A full search of the aircraft has now finished and nothing suspicious was found.”
Fears were initially raised over “a possible device on board” by the pilot on board flight QR23 from Doha, Qatar, as it approached the airport.
Dramatic video footage and photos showed an RAF jet accompanying the Qatar Airways Airbus A330 as it made its descent, while passengers reported a man being removed from the plane after it landed safely.
Less than hour after the first reports, Greater Manchester Police confirmed the arrest was related to a suspected hoax.
Before confirming the passenger had been arrested on suspicion of a hoax threat, GMP said: “A passenger has been taken off the plane by officers at Manchester Airport. We will work to get others off as swiftly and safely as possible.”
Qatar Airways said 269 passengers were on board, and 13 Qatar Airways crew on board.
It added: “The crew on-board had received a threat about a possible device on board and Qatar Airways immediately took all the necessary precautions to alert British authorities.
“The crew is now fully assisting police at the airport with their inquiries. The safety and well-being of our passengers and crew is our top priority. As this is a matter of a police investigation, we cannot comment further at this time.”
Witness Paul Bell, who was on his way to the airport in a taxi, told Sky News that he saw the Typhoon, from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, meet the passenger plane.
He said: “We heard the fighter jet circling over Stockport and literally 10 minutes later we saw the plane coming in being followed by it.
“We saw the Typhoon coming in, literally flying around the aeroplane.
“It then pinged up on the sat nav that the airport is on lock-down.”
An RAF spokesman said: “We can confirm that Typhoon aircraft were launched from RAF Coningsby in their quick reaction alert role this afternoon to investigate a civilian aircraft whose pilot had requested assistance.
“The aircraft was escorted to Manchester where it landed safely. This incident is now being handled by the civilian authorities.”
Manchester Airport said nine incoming flights had to be diverted to other airports, with five of these landing at Leeds Bradford airport.
One of the flights that landed on time at Manchester once the emergency was over was the plane carrying Manchester United back from Florida where the team has been engaged in a pre-season friendly tournament.
“There are a few minor delays to outgoing flights but we’re pretty much back to normal,” said an airport spokesman.
At the airport terminal loved ones of the passengers waited anxiously for news.
Pauline Cox, from Chester, waiting for her son, Matthew Cox, 24, travelling back after a three-week trip to Thailand, said: “Nobody has been out from Manchester Airport to tell us anything.
“Parents have been waiting, two, three hours.
“When we asked we were told they were in a remote location for security reasons.
“We have heard there’s a bomb and our innocent children are sat on that plane.”
Mrs Cox said her son and the other passengers were going through passport control and baggage reclaim with all the other travellers.
She added: “I’m just so frustrated they have been through that ordeal and just treated with not the respect they deserve, that’s not how you treat victims. They are victims in this.”
Arthur Smee, 58, a hospital porter from Penmaenmawr, North Wales, was waiting for his daughter, Lisa, 25, to arrive when he heard about a bomb scare on the plane.
Mr Smee said: “Some people were stood around talking and some had pictures of the plane being followed by a military plane - you just think the worst don’t you?
“I’m just glad she got in touch. She said armed police have been on the plane and taken somebody off.
“They were just sat there for ages then put on a bus.”