Detectives hunting for the people behind the drone chaos that paralysed Gatwick airport have released the only two people they have arrested and declared them innocent.
Sussex police said on Sunday that the man and woman had been released without charge and ruled out of their inquiries.
Following the most disruptive incident ever caused by a drone at a major international airport, detectives interviewed the 47-year-old man and 54-year-old woman from Crawley as forensic officers searched a house in the West Sussex town, three miles south of Gatwick.
A series of drone sightings above its runway forced Britain’s second-largest airport to shut three times in three days last week, leaving about 140,000 passengers stranded. It was the airport’s biggest disruption since the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud of 2010.
Gatwick is offering a £50,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the culprits. The two suspects, who were named and pictured by some news outlets, will try to return to their normal lives.
Det Ch Supt Jason Tingley of Sussex police said in a statement: “Both people have fully co-operated with our inquiries and I am satisfied that they are no longer suspects in the drone incidents at Gatwick.
“It is important to remember that when people are arrested in an effort to make further inquiries it does not mean that they are guilty of an offence and Sussex police would not seek to make their identity public.
“Our inquiry continues at a pace to locate those responsible for the drone incursions, and we continue to actively follow lines of investigation. We ask for the public’s continued support by reporting anything suspicious, contacting us with any information in relation to the drone incidents at Gatwick.”
Tingley also said that police had recovered a damaged drone on the north perimeter of the airport.
“Obviously we will be doing everything we can with regards to forensically examining that drone and that is something that is being fast-tracked and expedited,” he told Sky News.
Police made the arrests just after 10pm on Friday. The man and woman were detained on suspicion of disrupting civil aviation in a way likely to endanger the safety of people or operations.
They were the first arrests made since the drone sightings plunged Gatwick into chaos on Wednesday, with a rogue operator playing a cat and mouse game with the authorities by flying the unmanned vehicles so close to Britain’s second busiest airport that hundreds of flights had to be suspended.
Police and military specialists were deployed to search for those behind the drones, which reappeared near the airport as the authorities battled to keep the runways open at one of the busiest times of the year.
Airport bosses feared drones could potentially strike passenger planes with catastrophic consequences and the financial consequences of cancelled flights are estimate to run into millions of pounds.
Anti-drone technology used by the army has been brought into Gatwick in an attempt to thwart any further attempts at disruption. British authorities do not believe the incidents were linked to terrorism or any foreign power.