Plane bomb threat accused are cleared

Mohammed Safdar (left) and Tayyab Subhani (right) leave Chelmsford Crown Court, Essex, where they are charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft.  PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 12, 2013. See PA story COURTS Plane. Photo credit should read: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Mohammed Safdar (left) and Tayyab Subhani (right) leave Chelmsford Crown Court, Essex, where they are charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 12, 2013. See PA story COURTS Plane. Photo credit should read: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Two men on trial for threatening to blow up an airliner with 308 passengers on board at 30,000 feet were dramatically cleared by a court in Essex today.

After the alleged bomb threat the Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 777 which was en-route from Lahore to Manchester was diverted to Stansted Airport in Essex. Two RAF fighter jets were also scrambled to escort it.

At a trial which began at Chelmsford Crown Court two-and-a-half weeks ago Tayyab Subhani (30) and Mohammed Safdar (42) both of Nelson near Burnley pleaded not guilty to endangering the safety of the airliner by communicating intentionally that some passengers and some crew would be killed and the aircraft blown up.

Today though the case collapsed and Subhani, of Townley Street, Brierfield, and Safdar, of Hallam Street, both Nelson, were formally cleared by Judge Charles Gratwicke.

Neither man showed any sign of emotion as they were acquitted and as they heard the judge describe the prosecution evidence as “weak, tenuous and peppered with inconsistencies.”

The abrupt end to the case came in the wake of evidence from the chief steward on the aircraft, Ghulam Shabir Mahar, who had told the court Mr Safdar had threatened to “blow up everyone” during an argument on the plane.

However, passengers failed to back up Mr Mahar’s claims about what he said he had heard. And the court was told that at an internal airline inquiry in Pakistan he had made no mention of any bomb threats.