Retired fireman detained at a UK airport for "racist remarks"

Retired fireman detained at a UK airport for "racist remarks"

A retired British fireman was detained at a busy UK airport for allegedly making "racist remarks" as he asked why a veiled woman was not checked by the security.

David Jones, 67, a retired fireman, and creator of the popular children's character, Fireman Sam, was detained at Gatwick airport for a friendly quip about a veiled woman not being checked by the security.

As Jones arrived at the security gates at Gatwick airport, he was looking forward to getting through swiftly so he could enjoy lunch with his daughters before their flight.

Placing his belongings, including a scarf, into a tray to pass through the X-ray scanner, he spotted a Muslim woman in hijab pass through the area without showing her face.In a light-hearted aside to a security official who had been assisting him, he said, "If I was wearing this scarf over my face, I wonder what would happen."

The quip proved to be a mistake. After passing through the gates, he was confronted by staff and accused of racism, the Daily Telegraph reported.

As his daughters, who had passed through security, waited in the departure lounge wondering where he was, he was subjected to a one hour stand-off as officials tried to force him to apologise.

"Something like George Orwell's 1984 now seems to have arrived in Gatwick airport. I feel that my rights as an individual have been violated. What I underwent amounts to intimidation and detention. I was humiliated and degraded in full public view'" Jones said.

He said that when he made his initial remark the security guard had appeared to agree with him, saying: "I know what you mean, but we have our rules, and you aren't allowed to say that."

He was confronted by a guard later who said he was being detained because he had made an offensive remark.

"She took my passport and boarding pass and I was then escorted back through the security zone into the outer area. Here the female security guard proceeded to question me further, inferring many things that I had not said," Jones said.

Jones was asked to apologise which he refused outrightly but later agreed to a compromise that he should agree that what he had said "could" be considered offensive by a Muslim guard.

Department for Transport rules do not prevent people covering their faces at UK airports for religious reasons. However, all passengers must show their faces to UK Borders officials when they pass through passport control.