Drunk thug began 'eating' his phone after mid-air rant on easyJet flight which caused diversion to Edinburgh
A drunk thug who caused an aircraft to be diverted to Edinburgh Airport after he began 'eating' his mobile phone is facing a jail sentence.
Matthew Flaherty was on an easyJet flight travelling from Manchester to Iceland when he pulled a bottle of gin from a bag and began swigging from the bottle.
Flaherty, from Middlewich in Cheshire, then shouted and swore at concerned cabin crew before issuing threats to kill them during his mid-air rant.
And when the property conveyancer was warned to sit down and behave he pulled out his mobile phone and began chewing on the electrical parts.
The phone’s battery fell onto a seat and began to smoke and smoulder causing one steward to rush over and place the device into a glass of water.
The easyJet cabin crew manager was in said to be “very intimidated” by Flaherty’s drunken outburst and she was “worried he would physically harm her” during his outburst.
The manager reported the incidents to the pilot who took the precaution of locking the cockpit door and diverting the plane to Edinburgh Airport in January last year.
Flaherty was subsequently met by police officers who took him to Livingston police station in where he continued his rowdy behaviour by racially abusing a constable by repeatedly calling him “a n***er”.
Flaherty, 44, appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Monday where he pleaded guilty to charges including putting the safety of the flight in danger at Edinburgh Airport on January 28 last year.
Fiscal depute Jade Doidge told the court the easyJet flight departed Manchester Airport bound for Keflavik in Iceland at around 4pm with six crew and 142 passengers on board.
Flaherty was soon seen grabbing a bottle of gin from an overhead locker and drinking from the bottle before he started chatting up a woman.
When the female passenger ignored him Flaherty began shouting and swearing telling her to “f*ck off” and that he was “going to kill her family”.
Cabin crew attempted to calm the situation but the drunk thug soon turned on them by stating “I am going to kill you if you do not shut up”.
The cabin crew manager was said to have been left “very intimidated” by his behaviour and after informing the pilot the decision was made to divert the flight to Edinburgh.
The air crew were said to be “quite shaken” by Flaherty’s behaviour and the court heard none of the cabin staff had “dealt with anything as extreme before”.
During the drunken outburst Flaherty also began struggling with a male passenger after the man had attempted to retrieve a bag from the overhead locker.
Mobile phone drama
And as the plane began its decent into Edinburgh Flaherty pulled out his mobile phone and began pulling it apart and chewing on the broken parts.
Ms Doidge said: “The accused took his mobile phone out and began to destroy it with his bare hands cutting himself in the process.
“He was seen putting parts of it into his mouth and chew them up.
“The battery was discarded onto a a seat and as a result it began to heat up and began smouldering.”
Cabin crew reacted swiftly to the “potential of fire” on board the plane and “scooped the battery up and placed it in a cup of water to cool it down”.
Flaherty was met by police when the plane landed and after being taken to Livingston police station he abused a PC by repeatedly calling him “a n***er” and threatening to find and kill his family.
Solicitor Richard Souter, defending, said his client was “aghast at his behaviour” on the flight and had little recollection of the events due to mixing alcohol with painkillers he had taken for a trapped nerve.
Mr Souter said the combination of medication and alcohol had “an adverse effect on his behaviour”.
Sheriff Thomas Welsh QC said Flaherty had carried out an “extremely serious offence” and deferred sentence to next month for the preparation of reports.
The sheriff added: “This is an extremely serious case and you should prepare yourself for custody.”
Flaherty pleaded guilty to conducting himself in a disorderly manner by shouting, swearing, uttering threats and failing to comply with cabin crew instructions on an easyJet flight between Manchester and Keflavik, Iceland, on January 28 last year.
He also admitted to acting in a manner likely to endanger the aircraft by taking apart a mobile phone, placing parts in his mouth, causing damage to the battery whereby it began to smoulder placing persons on the plane at risk of injury and danger to the safety of the aircraft.
Flaherty also pleaded guilty to a third charge of shouting, swearing, uttering threats of violence and racial remarks at Livingston police station on the same date.