SECURITY staff at Gatwick Airport detained Fireman Sam creator David Jones for an hour after he was accused of racism because of a quip about a Muslim woman’s head scarf.
The 67-year-old, who is responsible for creating children’s character Fireman Sam, was placing his belongings which included a scarf, into a tray which passes through an X-Ray scanner, when he spotted a Muslim woman walk through security in a hijab without showing her face.
The ex-fireman and former member of the Household Cavalry light heartedly joked to a security official ‘What would happen if I had a scarf over my face?’
To his horror as he passed through the gates he was approached by airport staff and a British Airways manager, who accused him of making racist comments and detained him for an hour in a bid to get him to apologise because a member of staff had been offended.
Speaking to a national newspaper Mr Jones said it was like something out of George Orwell’s novel 1984, and he felt his rights had been violated.
Mr Jones was flying with BA from the airport to Faro in Portugal with his two daughters where he lives.
Before the one hour stand off, his artificial hip set off the scanner alarms - it was then he was approached by staff and told he was being detained because of offensive comments.
He said staff took his passport and boarding pass.
Mr Jones denied he had made racist comments and then requested a police officer attend the scene and arrest him if he had committed a crime.
The matter was resolved when he agreed the comments could have been regarded as offensive and he joined his daughters airside.
There is no legal requirement to remove religious headwear to establish identity in airport security area - identity checks are conducted at Border Control.
A spokeswoman for Gatwick Airport said: “The passenger was apparently concerned the lady was not searched or asked to reveal her identity, whilst he himself was searched.
“When the Muslim lady in traditional dress passed through security no alarms activated. When the other passenger came through, the security equipment did alarm.
“Some security colleagues were offended by some of the comments made and supervisors asked the passenger to return landside and engaged in a discussion.
“We would be more than happy to discuss the incident with the gentleman direct and address any concerns he may have about how it was managed.”
A spokeswoman for BA said: “Our customer service manager did everything possible to help resolve the situation.
“The customer then completed his journey.”