British Airways passenger accused of assaulting cabin crew demanded to get off plane midair ‘to party’

·3-min read
William Clegg (PA)
William Clegg (PA)

A British Airways passenger demanded to get off a transatlantic flight at 38,000ft “to go and party” as he ran amok in the business class cabin, a court has heard.

William Clegg, 33, had drunk three glasses of wine and two Baileys as well as taking insomnia medication when he started acting “bizarrely” on the flight from San Jose in California to UK.

The “high-powered” frequent flyer, from Notting Hill, west London, is on trial accused of headbutting and assaulting five members of the cabin crew as he was put into handcuffs and leg restraints.

Isleworth crown court heard Clegg later blamed his behaviour on an epileptic fit and struggled to remember what had happened when he was arrested as the plane landed at Heathrow Airport.

“His behaviour was truly obnoxious for about three hours, disturbing cabin crew, waking up everyone in business class, throwing food around, climbing over seats, and wanting to exit the plane in mid-air to go and party”, said defence barrister Trevor Burke QC.

Flight attendant Amy Stewart told jurors it was around two hours into the flight when Clegg, wearing pyjamas, began exhibiting “strange behaviour”, walking up and down the aisle while shouting and entering the galley kitchen area of the plane.

“He backed me into a corner, he was right in my face, asking questions and just being very intimidating”, she said.

“Out of nowhere he lunged towards me and lifted up his T-shirt, trying to trap me under the shirt”, she said.

“I pushed myself back, and at that point my manager said that was enough and he had to go back to his seat.”

She said Clegg ignored requests to return to his seat, including during an intervention by the captain, and eventually they tried to contain him in the galley area to avoid disturbing other passengers.

It is said Clegg grabbed cabin manager Jamie March and “threw him to the floor” and then repeatedly aimed headbutts at Ms Stewart as BA staff members tried to restrain him.

“The situation was so out of control that we had no choice but to get out the restraints”, Ms Stewart told the court.

“He was saying: ‘This is a joke, you don’t know who I am and what I can do, who do you think you are doing this to me’”, she said.

Clegg is accused of hitting Cieran Robert-Smith on the right side of his head while trying to resist being detained, it is alleged he kicked Franz Hartman while attempting to break out of leg restraints, and he is accused of assaulting a fifth member of the cabin crew, Carlie-Dee Tichmer, with a headbutt.

The court heard Clegg, who had suffered from epilepsy since he was a child, had been prescribed Ambien medication for insomnia during his stay in the US prior to boarding the flight on August 25, 2019.

He had been told to take one tablet but is accused of taking two, plus another medication tablet, as well as having the alcoholic drinks.

“He was walking up and down the flight in business class while shouting”, said prosecutor Paul Edwards.

“He went to the galley and started throwing chocolate bars.

“He said he wanted to go outside to see his friends. He was told you can’t, you are 38,000ft in the air.”

After being removed from the flight at Heathrow, Clegg insisted he had been having an epileptic fit.

“The main issue in this case is was the defendant reckless in his actions when he took the tablets”, said Mr Edwards.

Clegg denies five counts of assault. The trial continues.

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