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Aussie who triggered hijack alert claims he was sober

April 28, 2014 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59An Australian who triggered a hijack alert at Bali airport by allegedly trying to enter the cockpit of a Bali-bound Virgin Australia B737 has come up with a novel excuse.

Matthew Christopher Lockley, a 28-year-old Queensland plumber, says he mistook the cockpit door for the toilet. He denies he was drunk.

Lockley was taken into police custody in Denpasar. Newspapers reported his behaviour caused 13 flights to be diverted or delayed at the busy Bali airport, as the airport was put into lockdown mode at the start of the weekend.

Virgin Australia tweets that it hasn't been hijacked

Lockley told Bali police that he was visiting Indonesia to try to find his Indonesian wife, the Illawarra Mercury newspaper reported. Although reports of the incident said he was “apparently drunk”, Lockley denied consuming any alcohol. He said he had taken only over-the-counter painkillers – four Panadol and two Voltaren – and had then drunk two Coca Colas at Brisbane airport before boarding flight VA41 to Bali.

A Bali police spokesman was quoted as saying Lockley was banging on the cockpit door because he thought it was the toilet.

The commotion was enough for the pilot to issue a hijack alert. Crew grabbed Lockley, restrained and handcuffed him.

Facebook image of Lockley (centre foreground) taken with friends on another occasion

The Virgin flight was carrying 137 passengers and crew. When the plane landed it was moved to an isolated part of the runway, escorted by military trucks, before two heavily armed hijack teams boarded the plane and removed Lockley.

Virgin issued a statement on Twitter denying reports it had been hijacked.

Police ordered tests conducted on Lockley’s blood and urine before deciding what to charge him with.

In the end, they let him go, but not to stay. Lockley was reportedly released late on Sunday and will be flown back to Australia this afternoon.

In a statement to media yesterday, he said the whole thing had been “a huge misunderstanding”. The phrase “panic attack” was being used to describe his in-flight behaviour.

Australian authorities will have to decide whether to charge Lockley, as it was an Australian flight.

The BBC’s Karishma Vaswani in Indonesia said fears of a hijacking were caused after the pilot sent a distress signal to airport authorities.

Written by Peter Needham

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