Holidaymaker convicted of arson on board aircraft


John Cox, a 46-year-old man from Kidderminster, has today been sentenced to four years and six months' imprisonment after he pleaded guilty to arson, for starting a fire in a toilet on board a flight from Birmingham to Sharm-el-Sheikh while cruising at an altitude of 35,000 feet.

Birmingham Crown Court heard that on 27 August 2015, a Monarch Airbus A321 departed Birmingham International Airport carrying 194 passengers and seven crew members.

The flight departed at 1340hrs and an hour into the flight, as it flew over Munich at 33,000 feet, an alarm was raised in the flight deck notifying the captain and the first officer of a fire in lavatory D at the rear of the plane. Crew members managed to put the fire out.

At 1742hrs, 100 nautical miles off the Egyptian coastline at 35,000 feet, the flight crew received a warning of another fire this time in lavatory E, again at the rear of the plane.

The cabin crew investigated this and confirmed that there was another fire in the waste paper bin. They and a passenger managed to put the fire out. While this was happening the captain had been notified that the crew were having difficulties extinguishing the fire and so he had declared a mayday situation and was looking to carry out an emergency descent. It was only after the fire was out that he cancelled the mayday.

Crew members and passengers identified 46-year-old John Cox from Kidderminster as being responsible as he had been the last person to enter the toilet before the fire was identified.

On arrival in Sharm-el-Sheikh the defendant was removed from the aircraft by the police and arrested. Although he was released by the Egyptian authorities, he was subsequently arrested by West Midlands Police on 14 September 2015. He was later charged with and pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

Paul Reid, District Crown Prosecutor from West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service, said: "The motive of John Cox behind such a senseless crime is still unclear, but what is clear is that his irresponsible actions put the lives of all passengers and crew on board the aircraft in danger.

"We commend the cabin crew for their quick action in extinguishing the fires which prevented the situation escalating."