BA To Be Sued Over Pilot Child Abuse Claims
A number of young girls and women are taking British Airways to court over allegations that one of its pilots sexually abused children in African schools and orphanages.
First Officer Simon Wood, 54, died last August after being hit by a train near the Hertfordshire town of Potters Bar.
An inquest into his death found on Wednesday the pilot had killed himself.
Graham Danbury, deputy coroner for Hertfordshire, said: "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 felt that his only way out was to take his own life."
The girls and women suing BA claim the airline has responsibility because Wood was working for them when he carried out the alleged attacks during flight stopovers.
Law firm Leigh Day, representing 16 alleged victims, says Wood molested the girls - some of whom are as young as eight - while on stopovers in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
"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 lawyer Nichola Marshall.
"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.
"Our team will be travelling overseas over the coming weeks to meet with other potential victims in Nairobi and Uganda that have come forward more recently."
A British Airways spokesman said: "We were shocked and horrified to hear the allegations against Simon Wood, which appear to relate to his involvement in child-related activities entirely outside the scope of his employment with British Airways.
"Our sympathies are with the victims and it is disappointing that the conduct of one person has caused so much distress to the many thousands of decent people who engage in charitable works on a regular basis."
At the time of his death, Wood had been due to appear in a UK court on separate charges of indecently assaulting a young girl and making indecent images of children.
It was revealed that he was first arrested in November 2001 over an indecent allegation assault but prosecutors decided there was not enough evidence to charge him.
Wood was among 20 BA crew members who worked in 2002 as volunteers at a Kenya orphanage.
He said at the time: "We play, sing, organise activities and generally entertain them. We become very close to the children."