Man found not guilty after Gatwick bomb scare evacuation

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A man has been found not guilty of possession of an air rifle after a bomb scare sparked the evacuation of Gatwick Airport.

A man has been found not guilty of possession of an air rifle after a bomb scare sparked the evacuation of Gatwick Airport.

Thousands of people were evacuated from the North Terminal after police received reports of Jerome Chauris, 41, putting a ‘suspicious’ package’ in a bin hours after the Paris terror attacks last November.

A jury on Wednesday (April 27) found Mr Chauris not guilty of possession of a dangerous article in an aerodrome and possession of a bladed article in a public place, a court spokesman said.

The hearing at Hove Trial Centre lasted six hours.

Mr Chauris, a French national, had been remanded in custody after he appeared before Crawley magistrates on November 16,2015.

People were moved to hotels after the terminal was closed for more than six hours on November 14. 2015, the court heard. It was estimated the evacuation cost the airport and passengers £1.2m.

Speaking after the verdict, Mr Chauris’ defence barrister Ben Hargreaves said it was ‘tragic’ Mr Chauris spent months in prison before the trial, adding the jury took just seven minutes to reach its verdict.

He said Mr Chauris, a former marksman for the army who shot targets with his rifle as a hobby, was due to take a Gatwick flight to France and had no bail address or family in the UK.

He arrived at a check-in desk having flown for 25 hours from New Caledonia, an island in the South Pacific, via Tokyo, and Heathrow.

Mr Hargreaves said his client spoke little English and was not allowed to put his luggage in the hold because of an error on his ticket.

“His defence was that both items were lawful in where he came from and where he was going. He never intended the items to be in public view and they would not have been if he had been allowed to put them through easyJet,” said Mr Hargreaves.

“He was throwing the contents away so he could just take his hand luggage on board.”

An easyJet spokesman said Mr Chauris attempted to check in for a flight to France but “panicked, ran and discarded his gun causing the security services to close the airport”.

During the Crawley Magistrates’ Court hearing on November 16 last year, Beata Murphy, prosecuting, said officers attended in seconds and drew their firearms. Officers found a firearm in the bin.

Mrs Murphy said: “Because there were concerns that the bin may contain IED (improvised explosive device) explosives the police declared a major incident at the airport and North Terminal at the airport was evacuated, which meant removing thousands of staff and passengers at probably the busiest time of the day. Later a decision was made to conduct a controlled explosion of the bin, its conculsion was that there was no IED in the bin.”

A Crown Prosecution Service spokesman said: “We felt there was and continued to be sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and that it always remained in the public interest to prosecute.”

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