British Airways “knew about” pilot’s abuse of Kenyan children – victims

Friday March 20 2015

Simon Wood was found dead after being charged with sexually abusing children. FILE PHOTO | BBC

Simon Wood was found dead after being charged with sexually abusing children. FILE PHOTO | BBC 

By NGARE KARIUKI
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British Airways (BA) had been told twice about pilot Simon Wood’s alleged abuse of children in his stopovers in Kenya, the law firm acting on behalf of the victims has revealed.

The BBC reported that Mike Johnson, another pilot who was on the British board of Nairobi-based charity, Nyumbani, told media outlet that he had informed two senior managers at BA that Mr Wood had been asked to leave the charity for “taking inappropriate images of children.”

Mr Wood committed suicide in 2013 by jumping in front of a train in Hertfordshire, UK, after being charged of indecent assault.

Lawyer 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 while flying for the airline.

“British Airways had a duty of care toward these children in the schools and orphanages. Wood was involved through the airline’s charitable work, and through his respected position as a British Airways pilot,” she said.

“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.”

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”.

Bharti Patel, CEO of End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT) UK, a child rights charity campaigning for the rights of children everywhere to be protected from abuse by British nationals traveling or residing abroad, on Friday said the apparent lack of action by BA looked like a serious breach.

“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,” she said.