A British passenger without a passport or plane ticket managed to fly from Heathrow to New York by ‘tailgating’ another traveller in a ‘major embarrassment’ for UK security, it emerged last night.
Craig Sturt, 46, is accused of following another passenger through security and passport checkpoints at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and enjoying free food and drinks on a British Airways plane before landing in the US.
He is said to have been detained by armed officials there, who found he had no documentation and was sent back to the UK on a charter flight.
Mr Sturt was then hand-delivered to Met Police officers at 8pm on Christmas Day, when he was arrested before he was taken to a hospital in Reading.
However, he allegedly escaped the hospital and has not been seen since, having become the subject of a missing person’s appeal.
Craig Sturt, 46, (pictured) was the subject of an ‘urgent missing person appeal’ when he followed another passenger through security and passport checkpoints on December 23, 2023
The incident is said to have left the Home Secretary demanding to find answers about the ‘humiliating fiasco’, The Sun reported.
Such an occurrence was thought to have been impossible because of increased security and technological advances since 9/11.
After escaping from hospital, a warrant for Mr Sturt’s arrest was issued on January 22, and Thames Valley Police issued a photo of him on January 30.
The force said at the time: ‘Urgent missing person appeal. Please can you help us find Craig? The 46-year-old is 6ft, slim, with short dark brown hair.
‘When he was last seen, he was wearing a grey jacket, a top, black jogging bottoms and white trainers.
‘Craig was last seen in Reading, but is from Slough and also has links to Heathrow and the Tottenham Court Road in London. If you see Craig, please do not approach him, instead call 999.’
He has been charged with obtaining services by deception; being unlawfully airside; boarding an aircraft without permission.
He was remanded to appear at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court – yet the unemployed 46-year-old has still not been found by police.
He has been spotted taking £200 in cash from a machine on Tottenham Court Road in London.
Mr Sturt boarded a British Airways plane to New York from Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Pictured: A BA plane takes off from Heathrow Terminal 5 (File image)
A source told The Sun: ‘Heads will roll. It’s staggering this could happen. It doesn’t bear thinking about what might have happened if a terrorist had successfully boarded a flight undetected.
‘This is a major embarrassment. Officials in the US are furious and demanding to know how this could have happened.’
A Heathrow spokeswoman said: ‘All people who go airside are subject to security screening, including the individual involved in this case. We are supporting the authorities with their ongoing investigation.’
The Met Police said: ‘On December 24, 2023, police were made aware of an alleged breach of security at Heathrow airport and a male was subsequently arrested and later charged with Fraud and Aviation Security Act offences.
‘We continue to work with all our partners to review and enhance the already robust security measures in place which are kept under constant review by the wider security partnership.’
British Airways said: ‘We are assisting the authorities with their investigation.’
The Home Office and the Department for Transport both refused to comment.