, LONDON, July 30 – British Airways is being sued over claims that one of its pilots sexually abused children in African schools and orphanages supported by the company while on stopovers, lawyers said Wednesday.
“We allege that Wood was able to abuse the victims, by reason of his employment with the airline, in particular through his involvement with the airline’s community relations work,” said Nichola Marshall, lawyer for Leigh Day.
“The schools and orphanages that our clients attended were all in receipt of charitable donations from the airline, and Wood played a key role in administering those donations, on behalf of British Airways,” she added.
First Officer Simon Wood, 54, was struck by a train in a station north of London on August 18 last year, days before he was due in court to face abuse charges.
British coroner Graham Danbury ruled on Wednesday that Wood had committed suicide.
“I’m satisfied that, as a result of having been charged with offences, he was in a state of considerable distress, which would have been understandable,” he said.
Wood was accused of indecently assaulting a girl under 16, of taking indecent photographs of a child and of possessing indecent images of a child.
A British Airways spokesman said the airline was “shocked and horrified” by the allegations.
Police officers first approached Wood in a car park at Heathrow Airport on July 19 last year.
“As a result of things discussed in that conversation about activity in Kenya and potentially things seen on his computer, he was arrested,” said Scotland Yard’s Simon Giles.