Tweed plumber not guilty after Bali hijacking scare
A TWEED Heads plumber who sparked a hijacking scare aboard a flight to Bali earlier this year has been found not guilty of interfering with a crew member.
Matthew Christopher Lockley, 28, made headlines around the world after a Virgin Airlines flight from Brisbane to Bali on Anzac Day was forced to make an emergency landing at Denpasar Airport after crew members thought the plane was being hijacked.
Heavily armed Indonesian police boarded the plane when it landed and took Mr Lockley into custody before releasing him without charge the following day.
He was charged subsequently under the Civil Aviation Act for interfering with a crew member when he returned home as the plane was registered in Australia.
Mr Lockley always maintained his innocence claiming he mistook to cockpit door for a business class toilet at the front of the aircraft.
Magistrate Judy Daley, in delivering her findings on Friday, said she believed Mr Lockley attempted to gain access to the cockpit, but believed there was no untoward intent in doing so.
She said the physical act had been proved, but said there was not enough evidence to prove intent.
"Mr Lockley says he was suffering panic attack, feeling claustrophobic and was also confused," she said.
"This was corroborated from evidence provided by witnesses at his trial."
Outside court Mr Lockley said he was relieved the whole ordeal was finally over.
He said several airlines had black-banned him which greatly affected his employment as a fly-in fly-out worker.
"I never tried to get in anywhere . . . it was just a big misunderstanding," he said.
"It has been a very traumatic experience.
"We are all very happy and relieved at the moment . . . I just want to jump up and down."
Defence barrister Chris Rosser was highly critical of Virgin Airlines saying the carrier had over-reacted and its systems needed a full overhaul.
He said the airline used unnecessary heavy-handed tactics.
"Virgin really needs to review its procedures," he said.
"If they had a different system in place for a hijacking alert then we would not have had this mess in the first place."
- APN NEWSDESK