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Gatwick drone attack possible inside job, say police

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The drone attack that caused chaos at Gatwick before Christmas was carried out by someone with knowledge of the airport’s operational procedures, the airport has said.

A Gatwick chief told BBC Panorama the drone’s pilot “seemed to be able to see what was happening on the runway”.

Sussex Police told the programme the possibility an “insider” was involved was a “credible line” of inquiry.

About 140,000 passengers were caught up in the disruption.

The runway at the UK’s second busiest airport was closed for 33 hours between 19 and 21 December last year – causing about 1,000 flights to be cancelled or delayed.

In his first interview since the incident, Gatwick’s chief operating officer, Chris Woodroofe, told Panorama: “It was clear that the drone operators had a link into what was going on at the airport.”

Mr Woodroofe, who was the executive overseeing the airport’s response to the attack – the “gold commander” – also said that whoever was piloting the drone could either see what was happening on the runway, or was following the airport’s actions by eavesdropping on radio or internet communications.

And whoever was responsible for the attack had “specifically selected” a drone which could not be seen by the DJI Aeroscope drone detection system that the airport was testing at the time, he added.

‘No overreaction’

Despite a huge operation drawing resources from five other forces and a £50,000 reward, there is still no trace of the culprit.

Sussex Police says its investigation is ongoing and expected to take “some months to complete”.

The first sighting of the drone was at 21:03 GMT on 19 December but it was not until 05:57 GMT on 21 December that flights resumed with an aircraft landing.

Gatwick says it repeatedly tried to reopen the runway but on each occasion the drone reappeared.

Airport protocol mandates that the runway be closed if a drone is present.

Mr Woodroofe denied claims the airport overreacted, describing the situation it faced as an unprecedented, “malicious” and “criminal” incident.

“There is absolutely nothing that I would do differently when I look back at the incident, because ultimately, my number one priority has to be to maintain the safety of our passengers, and that’s what we did.

“It was terrible that 140,000 people’s journeys were disrupted – but everyone was safe.”

Mr Woodroofe also dismissed the suggestion that the number of sightings had been exaggerated – and a theory, circulating online, that there had been no drone at all.

These claims have been fuelled by the fact that there are no verified pictures of the drone, and very few eyewitnesses have spoken publicly.

Police told the BBC they had recorded 130 separate credible drone sightings by a total of 115 people, all but six of whom were professionals, including police officers, security personnel, air traffic control staff and pilots.

Mr Woodroofe said that many of the drone sightings were by people he knew personally and trusted – “members of my team, people I have worked with for a decade, people who have worked for thirty years on the airfield, who fully understand the implications of reporting a drone sighting”.

“They knew they’d seen a drone. I know they saw a drone. We appropriately closed the airport.”

Panorama has been told witnesses reported seeing an extremely fast-moving, large drone with bright lights.

At least one person noted the characteristic cross shape while others described it as “industrial or commercial” and “not something you could pop into Argos for”, an airport spokesperson said.

Threat remains

Other international airports have installed counter-drone technology and Gatwick has confirmed that, in the days after the attack, it spent £5m on similar equipment.

Asked whether Gatwick should have done more to protect the airport from drones before the incident, Mr Woodroofe said the government had not approved any equipment for drone detection at that stage.

“The equipment I have on site today is painted sand yellow because it comes straight from the military environment,” he added.

Panorama has learned that Gatwick bought two sets of the AUDS (Anti-UAV Defence System) anti-drone system made by a consortium of three British companies.

AUDS was one of two systems the military deployed at the airport on the evening of 20 December.

Mr Woodroofe said he was confident that the airport was now much better protected.

“We would know the drone was arriving on site and we’d know where that drone had come from, where it was going to, and we’d have a much better chance of catching the perpetrator.”

Every day, he said, the airport sends up a drone to test the detection equipment, and “it finds that drone”.

But he added: “What this incident has demonstrated is that a drone operator with malicious intent can cause serious disruption to airport operations.

“And it’s clear that disruption could be carried over into other industries and other environments.”

Panorama, The Gatwick Drone Attack, will be shown on BBC One at 20:30 BST on Monday 15 April and on BBC iPlayer It will also be shown on BBC World News at a later date

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Valerie Graves: Murder-accused Cristian Sabou appears in court

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A man accused of murdering a woman found bludgeoned to death in her bed almost six years ago has appeared in court.

Valerie Graves, 55, was found dead at a property in Smugglers Lane, Bosham, West Sussex, on 30 December 2013.

Cristian Sabou, 27, was charged with her murder after being extradited from Dej, north-west Romania, last week.

He did not enter a plea and was remanded in custody after a hearing at Lewes Crown Court.

Ms Graves, an artist, was house-sitting with her mother at the £1.6m seaside property when she was killed.

A post-mortem examination found she had died from severe head injuries after being hit with a claw hammer.

Mr Sabou is next due to appear at Lewes Crown Court on 30 September.

Judge Katherine Laing QC scheduled a provisional trial date of 6 January and told Mr Sabou he would be expected to enter a plea at his next hearing.

Follow BBC South East on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram. Send your story ideas to southeasttoday@bbc.co.uk.

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Murder charge after woman found strangled in Bexhill flat

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A man has been charged with murdering a woman who was found strangled in a flat in East Sussex.

Kayleigh Hanks, 29, was found after police were called to a disturbance at a flat in London Road, Bexhill at about 00:30 BST on Sunday.

Ian Paton, 36, of Snowdrop Rise, St Leonards, has been charged with her murder and is due to appear at Brighton Magistrates’ Court later.

Both people were known to each other, a Sussex Police spokesman said.

A post-mortem examination carried out on Monday confirmed Ms Hanks had died as a result of strangulation.

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Heatwave: How to keep cool and carry on in 35C

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With a heatwave predicted to bring temperatures above 35C to parts of the UK over the next few days, how can the nation keep cool and carry on?

Do I have to work during a heatwave?

For those hoping to be given a day off, unfortunately, there are currently no laws in the UK about when it is too hot to work.

Employers should provide a “reasonable” temperature in the workplace.

But the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says a limit cannot be introduced because some industries have to work in high temperatures.

It can, however, be too cold to work. Government guidance recommends a minimum working temperature of 16C (61F), or 13C, if employees are doing physical work.

As avoiding work in the heat isn’t an option, then there’s the inevitable dilemma of what to wear.

But can you wear flip-flops to work? Read what the experts have to say.

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How do you sleep?

That’s the million dollar question. On sticky nights, drifting off can seem impossible.

A big part of the problem is humidity, which makes it hard for sweat to evaporate.

To try and keep your bedroom as cool as possible, shut your blinds or curtains during the day – although doing so with metallic blinds and dark curtains could make the room hotter.

You could also open windows on the shady side of your home and close them on the sunny side – and then open all the windows before going to bed to get a through breeze.

That’s not an option open to everyone, so an electric fan can be a handy substitute.

A fan will help move the air around your body and increase the chance of sweat evaporating.

Other recommendations include:

  • Putting reflective material or shades outside bedroom windows
  • Having a lukewarm shower before bed
  • Using thin cotton sheets
  • Wearing lightweight materials for bed as they can keep you cooler – as can sleeping naked and avoiding sharing space with partners
  • Putting your sheets in the freezer for a spell before you go to bed

When it comes to children, the NHS says a cool bath before bedtime can help.

Pyjamas and bedclothes should be kept to a minimum, and if a baby kicks off its bedcovers during the night then they could sleep in just a nappy – babies sleep most comfortably when their room is between 16C (61F) and 20C (68F).

What should you wear?

Dressing for the weather may sound obvious, but clothes can make a real difference to how our bodies handle heat.

As tempting as it might be to strip off, you may be at greater risk of sunburn which can affect your body’s ability to cool itself.

It’s best to choose light colours over dark – which can attract and retain heat – and loose garments that can allow air to get in.

Hats with ventilation will also help and fabric choice is key – materials like cotton and linen are more breathable, absorbing sweat and encouraging ventilation.

Any advice on what to eat and drink?

Hydration is key. Our bodies sweat more in hot weather, so it is really important to restock lost water levels.

Don’t rely on your physical thirst to judge how dehydrated you are as it’s not a very good indicator (urine colour is better), so you should try to drink plenty before you feel parched.

And try not to consume too much alcohol. The NHS says good drink options include water, lower-fat milks and tea and coffee.

Foods with high water content such as strawberries, cucumber, courgette, lettuce, celery and melon can also help you stay hydrated.

Try to avoid large, heavy meals laden with carbohydrates and protein because they take more digesting, which in turn produces more body heat.

Although it may not be what you fancy on sweaty days, scientific research suggests spicy and hot foods can actually help cool you down.

How do you keep babies cool?

As if you don’t have enough to think about with a baby, a heatwave brings an added risk of dehydration, sunburn and sunstroke.

The NHS recommends keeping all babies under six months out of direct sunlight, and older infants should be kept out of the sun as much as possible, particularly between 11:00 and 15:00.

They should be kept in the shade or under a sunshade if they’re in a buggy or pushchair.

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Sun cream with a high sun protection factor should be applied regularly – particularly if children are in water.

All children should be given plenty of fluids and the NHS says babies who are being breastfed may want to feed more than usual, but will not need water as well as breast milk.

If they are bottle feeding, babies can be given cooled boiled water as well as their usual milk feeds.

What about pets?

Dogs in particular struggle in the hot weather because they are not able to cool down through sweating, as humans do, and those breeds with long coats are especially prone to overheating.

The RSPCA has a series of tips for keeping animals safe and comfortable during the heatwave.

These include avoiding leaving animals in hot cars, conservatories, outbuildings or caravans, which, even just for a short while, can be fatal due to rising temperatures.

It also says it is best to walk a dog early in the morning or late in the evening when it is cooler, as paws can burn on a hot pavement. Exercise can also increase the risk of heatstroke.

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For those pets kept in cages, hutches, fish tanks or other enclosures, they should be kept out of direct sunlight.

And it’s not just humans who need sun cream, it might also be beneficial to apply some to your pet.

Animals’ exposed spots, such as ears and noses, are vulnerable to sunburn and – just like people – sun damage can lead to skin cancer.

The Blue Cross say white cats are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer from sunlight exposure than others.

What are symptoms of heatstroke?

Most people in the UK aren’t used to such extreme temperatures, which can cause heat exhaustion and, more seriously, heatstroke.

Signs of heat exhaustion can include tiredness or weakness, feeling faint or dizzy, having muscle cramps or feeling sick. If left untreated, the more serious symptoms of heatstroke can develop, including confusion, disorientation and even a loss of consciousness.

Those suffering the signs of heat exhaustion should go to a cool place with air conditioning or shade, use a cool, wet sponge or flannel and drink fluids – ideally water, fruit juice or a rehydration drink, such as a sports drink.

Those most vulnerable include the elderly, people with conditions such as diabetes, young children and people working or exercising outdoors.

Can I exercise during a heatwave?

If you choose to exercise, listen to your body – it will be under greater strain than in usual conditions so your usual limits may be different.

Aim to do it when the weather is at its coolest: early or late in the day.

If you do intensive exercise, drink lots of water. Isotonic sports drinks can also help ensure you are rehydrating properly.

Cold showers and blotting with damp, cold materials can also work wonders.

In general, stay in the shade or in air-conditioned places as much as possible, especially at the hottest part of the day.

How long does it take to burn?

The risk of sunburn depends on how sensitive your skin is, and how strong the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are.

The UV index will vary, depending on where you are in the world, the time of year, what the weather is like, the time of day, and how high up you are compared to sea level.

During the UK’s summer months, the sun’s UV rays are strongest between 11:00 and 15:00.

Cancer Research UK suggests using a simple “shadow rule” to estimate the strength of the sun.

It suggests that if your shadow is shorter than your height, the sun’s UV rays are strong – and you are therefore more likely to burn.

How often should you reapply sun cream?

There are lots of “extended wear” sunscreens on the market that advertise themselves as being for use “once a day”, or claiming to last for eight hours.

But dermatologists recommend that these products should still be applied at least every two hours, like any other sunscreen, since the risk that you may have missed a spot – or that it will rub or wash off in that time – are too high.

The British Association of Dermatologists says sunscreen with SPF 30 is a “satisfactory form of sun protection in addition to protective shade and clothing” and that it should be reapplied at least every two hours, no matter what SPF it is.

There are lots of places that rate sunscreen brands, including consumer website Which?.

However, the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) says in general you should look for two ratings on bottles of sun creams.

The sun emits two types of ultraviolet rays – UVA (most commonly responsible for premature ageing and wrinkles) and UVB (which causes most sunburn).

The BAD says you need to be protected from both.

The sun protection factor (SPF) offers guidance on a cream’s protection against UVB rays, while a star system indicates the level of protection against UVA rays.

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