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British Airways accused of not acting over pilot abuse concerns

Further allegations about what British Airways knew about the alleged crimes of pilot Simon Wood surface in BBC report

Posted on 20 March 2015

The law firm acting on behalf of alleged child abuse victims of a British Airways pilot, Simon Wood, has confirmed that they are looking into reports that the airline had been told twice about concerns about his behaviour in Kenya.

According to the BBC, Mike Johnson, another BA pilot who was on the British board of Nairobi-based charity, Nyumbani, informed two senior managers at BA in 2004 that Wood had been asked to leave the charity for taking inappropriate images of children.

In 2008 the mother of an 11-year-old girl, who claimed she had been raped at his hotel, sent an email to a member of BA staff involved in charity work in Kenya.

The email reads: "Parents are complaining...that Mr Simon is using their daughters to satisfy his sexual desires". "...whenever Mr Simon is in Nairobi he takes them to the hotel where he stays".

However BA appeared to take no action against Wood, allowing him to allegedly abuse children in several African countries.

First Officer Simon Wood, from Hertfordshire, committed suicide in 2013 after he was charged with indecent assault and making and possessing indecent photographs of a child.

It is alleged that Wood molested over 30 children during stopovers in Kenya and Uganda between 2001 and 2013 whilst flying for British Airways.

Nichola Marshall, head of the international abuse team at Leigh Day, who is acting for 35 alleged victims, claims that BA had a duty of care toward the children allegedly abused in the African countries he visited whilst flying for the airline.

She added that these latest allegations could strengthen the legal case against BA.

The alleged victims are currently aged between 6 and 24 years of age, and were allegedly abused in African schools and orphanages over a number of years by Wood.

The allegations range from molestation to rape. Wood was struck by a train near Potters Bar station on August 18 2013. An inquest into his death in July 2014 recorded a verdict of suicide at Hertfordshire Coroner’s Court in July 2014.

Nichola Marshall from the international claims team at Leigh Day said: “We allege that British Airways had a duty of care toward these children in the schools and orphanages, that Wood was involved in through the airline’s charitable work, and through his respected position as a British Airways pilot.

“We are looking into the allegations that BA were told on two occasions that one of their pilots could be a danger to children but continued to allow and even encourage him to volunteer in projects they supported, even giving him awards for his charity work.

“If correct, these reports strengthen our case against British Airways and we want them to tell us exactly what they knew and when they were aware of the activities of Mr Wood and what they did about it.”

Bharti Patel, CEO of ECPAT UK, a child rights charity campaigning for the rights of children everywhere to be protected from abuse by British nationals travelling or residing abroad, today said the apparent lack of action by BA looked like a serious breach.

She commented “If British Airways were informed of Simon Wood’s alleged abuse of children, they had a duty to act with due diligence and intervene to remove Simon Wood from his role and investigate the complaints of abuse against him.

"Any error of judgement in this due diligence process is a serious breach when it comes to protection of children. Child abuse is a serious crime and a violation of children’s rights. It can leave children traumatised for long periods.

"Access to remedy and appropriate compensation is essential to help children begin the process of recovery and rehabilitation.”

BA said it cannot comment while legal proceedings continue, but has released a statement. "We were shocked and horrified to hear the allegations against Simon Wood and our sympathies are with the victims. "These allegations have been raised in the context of litigation which will be robustly defended."