'Unruly' mother who bit and scratched an airline pilot found guilty

Grandmother, 53, is dragged out of court by police for going on rant about ‘Hitler and Mussolini’ moments after being cleared of kicking a Swiss Air pilot who her daughter, 23, attacked

  • Henrietta Mitaiare, 23, and mother Mary Roberts, 53, denied assault by beating
  • They had flown from Zurich to Heathrow on May 2 when argument ensued 
  • Ms Roberts, 53, who allegedly kicked Captain Keel while he was on the floor was found not guilty of assault

A grandmother was dragged out of court today by police after being cleared of kicking a Swiss Air pilot who her daughter bit and scratched.

Henrietta Mitaiare, 23, attacked Captain Guido Keel during a ‘wholly disproportionate’ reaction when the flight from Zurich landed at Heathrow on Thursday May 2 last year.

Mitaiare had previously rowed with airport staff and the aircraft’s cabin manager before take-off because she was told she could not take her three-year-old’s buggy with her and must put it in the hold, a two day trial at Uxbridge Magistrates Court was told.

Mitiaire’s mother Mary Roberts, 53, who allegedly kicked Captain Keel while he was on the floor was found not guilty of assault.

Ms Roberts, of Fulham, south west London, was asked to leave the dock as she initially sat still following her acquittal before standing up to address the press in the public gallery.

She ranted: ‘Adolf Hitler is still ruling England and Mussolini is still ruling England and the innocent’ before being dragged out of the courtroom by a police officer.

Mary Roberts, 53, is escorted by police from Uxbridge Magistrates Court after being cleared

Henrietta Mataiare (green coat) and her mother Mary Roberts (brown coat), cover their faces with their coats and use umbrellas to hide behind as they arrive at Uxbridge Magistrates Court today

A judge described the attack as so severe that it ‘passed the custody threshold by a million miles’ and Mitaiare, of Kensington, west London, would have to go to prison. 

The court heard that Mitaiare finally accepted that the collapsable stroller would have to go in the hold and the pair went to their seats before the flight took off for Heathrow.

But when it landed, Mitaiare approached the flight manager, Ali Chkerdaa, to get the names of two women at the departure gate she had argued with so she could make a formal complaint to the airline.

As they worked for different company, he offered to give them his business card instead.

When Mitaiare refused to accept it, Captain Keel left the cockpit to offer his own business card which was also turned down.

Mary Roberts, 53, is escorted by police from Uxbridge Magistrates Court, after ranting in court about Hitler and Mussolini

He then put his hand on Mitaiare’s arm to gesture her off the aircraft and asked her to leave.

But she became enraged and pulled out her phone to start filming while asking him: ‘Why did you lay your hands on me? Where is the power?’

He responded with ‘I have the power’ but then fell back into the cockpit as he and Mitarare tussled on the floor.

During the melee Captain Keel suffered scratches to his neck and arm as well as a bite mark.

Flight First Officer Friedrich Preiler told the trial that the Captain’s shirt was left blood-stained after the incident.

Henrietta Mitaiare is pictured in Kensington, west London, in January 2016 

Ms Roberts tried to get into the cockpit while her daughter and the pilot were on the floor, but was held back by Mr Chkerdaa.

Mitaiare and her mother were taken away off the plane by police officers who were nearby escorting a prisoner who was being extradited.

Delivering her verdicts, District Judge Deborah Wright said: ‘Although neither of the defendants gave evidence at the trial I am satisfied that, through the interview of Ms Roberts and the prepared statement of Ms Mitaiare, both have raised the issue of self defence and defence of another and it is for the Crown to disprove those defences.

‘I find that Miss Mitaiare was very upset about the refusal of staff at Zurich airport to allow her to board the plane with her buggy.

‘After the flight landed , Ms Mitaiare was still exorcised by not being allowed to take her buggy onto the plane and she remonstrated with Mr Chkerdaa, demanding the names of the staff at the airport which he as unable to give.

‘He offered her his own business card so that she could complain formally. I also accepted his evidence that she had said that Swiss people were racist and that what had happened was because she was a black woman travelling with a child.

‘I am satisfied that Captain Keel came out of the cockpit, offered Ms Mitaiare his business card and asked her to leave the plane.

‘I am also satisfied that in doing so he touched her arm or shoulder to guide her to the door.

Swiss Air co-pilot Friedrich Preiler (pictured) gave evidence in the case at Uxbridge Magistrates Court previously

‘It may well be that this was unwise, but I am satisfied that the touching was not any more than a minimal contest and that Ms mitaiare’s reaction was wholly disproportionate.

‘The video footage is a testament to her anger and determination to continue to escalate a situation that was not getting out of hand.

‘I am aware of Ms Mitaiare’s frailties, but even allowing for that her reaction was wholly unacceptable. She was very far from being calm.

‘I am satisfied that Ms Mitaiare took out her phone and recorded the events as best she could, and what is clear from the recording, apart from her unruly behaviour, is that the Captain must have gone into the cockpit after his initial contact with her because as she is shouting at him about touching her and asking what his powers were, he can be seen re-emerging from the cockpit.

‘First officer Prieler was very calm and gave good, clear evidence.

‘He gave evidence that the captain as pushed into the cockpit and was trying to close the door. I accepted that this is what happened and I find that Ms Mitaiare was pursuing the captain.

Mitaiare, 23, and her mother Mary Roberts, 53, flew with Swiss Air (pictured) from Zurich to London Heathrow on May 2 last year

‘She was still trying to film him. First officer Prieler said that the Captain was trying to protect the cockpit. I am sure that this would have been right. By retreating to the cockpit the Captain was clearly trying to distance himself from Ms Mitaiare.

‘He was clearly not the aggressor at this stage. He was being harangued by her. On any view Ms Mitaiare had n business pursuing him into the cockpit.

‘I can infer from the fact that Captain Keel retreated to the cockpit and was trying to close the door, taken together with the aggressive stance being taken by Ms Mitaiare that he was trying to protect himself from a very loud and angry woman who had refused to leave the plane.

‘She was shouting, recording him, and seems insistent on pursuing him. There is nothing in the recordings that I have seen that would indicate that the Captain reacted in any way other than as a professional.’

She added: ‘Frankly, it is a wonder that he managed to remain as calm as he appears in the footage to have done in the face of a very forceful onslaught.

The two women are accused of assault by beating and appeared at Uxbridge Magistrates Court today (pictured) but both deny the charges

‘Captain Keel is, I understand, over 6ft tall. However, I am satisfied that it was he who was acting in self-defence, not Ms Mitaiare.

‘I am also satisfied that, whilst on the floor, she did bite the captain.

‘I am sure beyond reasonable doubt that the Crown has disproved Ms Mitaiare’s claim that she was acting in self-defence.’

Turning to Ms Roberts, she said: ‘I have considered the issue of whether Ms Roberts was assisting Ms Mitaiare in her assault on Captain Keel and her words and her actions were all defensive rather than offensive.

‘In any event, even is Ms Roberts had touched or made contact with the Captain, I would have been satisfied that she was genuinely fearful for her daughter and that she honestly believed she needed to intervene to protect her.

‘I am therefore acquitting Ms Roberts.’

Mitaiare was taken to the cells as she waited to be sentenced.

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