Mum who bit Swiss Air pilot in row over her child’s buggy found guilty

An "unruly" mum who bit and scratched an airline pilot in a row over her child’s buggy is facing jail after being found guilty of assault today.

Henrietta Mitaiare, 23, attacked Swiss Air 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 had to 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.

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.

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Ms Roberts, of Fulham, south west London, was asked to leave the dock as she initially sat still following her acquittal before stranding 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.

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.

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.

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.

“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."

She added: "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."

“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."

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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