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Security check that become a trial for an Algarve resident

by EMMA BERTENSHAW [email protected]

An Algarve resident who created the children’s character Fireman Sam has criticised the treatment he received after being detained at Gatwick Airport.

David Jones, 67, was held for questioning as he passed through security after querying why a veiled woman was not checked by airport security.

The furore started when he was about to return home to the Algarve, where he has lived with his family for more than 25 years, after a visit to the UK with his two daughters.

He told the Algarve Resident that they were walking through the security checks at the airport when he became separated from his daughters.

He continued through the queue to have his bags checked, removing the usual items such as his belt and scarf before the metal detector screening.

As he was doing so he was talking to the security guard and noticed another passenger standing nearby wearing a head covering that only allowed the eyes to be visible.

“I made a casual comment to the guard, saying ‘I wonder what would happen if I covered my face with my scarf’, to which the guard agreed he understood but said that was the way things were and we couldn’t say anything about it,” he said.

He continued on through the metal detector, which is set off every time following a hip operation.

Once searched, he began to pick up his belongings when one of the female staff stopped him saying he had made an offensive remark.

“I was taken aback,” said David Jones, “but I handed over my passport and ticket when she asked for them.”

He was asked to follow her and they walked back through to the departure area where he was told he had to apologise for the earlier remark.

“I told her that I hadn’t said anything offensive but another female staff officer came over saying she was Muslim and had been offended by what I had said.”

David Jones added: “It seemed clear from the behaviour of the first woman in particular that they wanted to force some kind of confession out of me.”

He said they continued countering his denials and suggesting possible intentions, with the conversation ending up going round in circles.

“I maintained that I had not made any reference to religion. I merely commented on the fact that another person was not required to remove an item that was obscuring their identity for the security check like everyone else.

“They told me times had changed and referred to my age, to which I replied their remarks could be taken as ageist.”

David Jones said he was not at all interested in the politics behind the issue.

“The staff at the airport took a politically correct point of view but the reaction had been emotional rather than rational.”

He asked for police to be called over and they were joined by a British Airways duty manager.

“He told me I should agree that my comments could be taken as offensive in order to settle the issue, which I did.”

Although David was held back for an hour, he was not arrested and he was escorted by police back through security, having to be searched all over again.

“I found the experience illogical and reactionary. I was made to feel humiliated,” he said.

Now that he has returned to the Algarve, David Jones says he is just waiting for more details from CCTV footage from the airport.

Gatwick airport has confirmed to media that they are looking into the issue in the meantime.

“I am still undecided as to what action to take,” said David Jones. “I will wait for the response from the airport and seek advice on the matter.”

The former fire fighter in Central London, where he found the inspiration for Fireman Sam, and member of the Household Cavalry now devotes his time to charity.

He has created a number of small figures to be sold in aid of wounded and disabled soldiers and is also writing, with his latest book The Hypnotist, due for release soon.