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Sunday, 26 February 2012

What would you say if I called you a drunken old duffer?': How guards insulted Fireman Sam creator after branding him racist for innocent burqa joke at airport security

A war veteran and creator of the popular children’s character Fireman Sam has told of how he was insulted and accused of racism at Gatwick Airport after he made a light-hearted remark.
Dave Jones said guards detained him for an hour and asked him how he would feel if he was called a 'drunken old duffer.'
The retired 67-year-old had commented on the ease with which a woman with her face covered by a hijab, a form of burqa, had walked through security.
As he placed his scarf and other items into a tray to pass through an X-ray scanner, Mr Jones quipped to an official: ‘If I was wearing this scarf over my face, I wonder what would happen.’
In what he called an ‘Orwellian nightmare’, he then was led back through security and interrogated before being forced to go through checks again with a policeman behind him, in full view of other passengers.
‘Something like George Orwell’s 1984 now seems to have arrived  in Gatwick Airport' said Mr Jones, whose worried daughters - aged 30 and 39 - were waiting for him in the departure lounge.

I feel my rights as an individual have been violated. ‘What I underwent amounts to intimidation, unlawful arrest and detention. I was humiliated and denigrated in full public view.
Mr Jones said that when he had made his original remark, the guard had appeared to agree with him, responding: ‘I know what you mean, but we have our rules and you aren’t allowed to say that.’
He added: 'I don't think I've done anything wrong.
‘I am a 67-year-old pensioner and have lived my life within the law.
‘I do not have even one point on my driving licence.’
Tight security: David Jones was detained after being searched at Gatwick Airport
Tight security: David Jones was detained after being searched at Gatwick Airport
As he went through security, he was confronted by a woman official who said he was being held because he had made an offensive remark.
Covered: A woman is allowed take her hijab off in a private room at UK airports
Covered: A woman is allowed take her hijab off in a private room at UK airports
Mr Jones, a former member of the Household Cavalry and a retired fireman,denied saying anything racist. But she took his passport and boarding pass and escorted him to another area where she questioned him.
He said: ‘It was impossible to get her to listen to reason. We were then joined by a second female security guard who stated that she was Muslim and was deeply distressed by my comment.'
Mr Jones, who now lives in Portugal and makes bronze statues for Help the Heroes, said he was not even sure the woman had been present when he had spoken - and he has now requested the CCTV footage.
‘I again stated that I had not made a racist remark but purely an observation that we were in a maximum security situation being searched thoroughly while a woman with her face covered walked through,' he added.
‘I made no reference to race or religion. I did not swear or raise my voice.’
After about 20 minutes, he asked the security guard whether he was going to be charged. She said no, but he could not leave until he apologised, and a British Airways manager arrived to join in the row.
'These people were very politically aware, and frightened for their jobs, in my opinion,' added Mr Jones.
He called for a policeman but, he said, it was clear the officer was ‘keeping to the politically correct code’.
A pillar of the community: The popular Fireman Sam cartoon was created by David Jones who was accused of racism
A pillar of the community: The popular Fireman Sam cartoon was created by David Jones who was accused of racism
He demanded that the officer should arrest him if there was a case against him. Mr Jones said: ‘I was told that we now live in a different time and some things are not to be said.’
The female guard asked Mr Jones how he would feel if she called him a 'drunken old duffer', and eventually asked if he would say he 'could see how his remarks could have been considered offensive.'
A despairing Mr Jones agreed, and was then led through security with a police guard.
'I've heard they have training in how to deal with the public,' he said. 'This guard was abusing her power.
'She certainly shouldn't have been allowed to deal with public.'
Mr Jones, who now lives in the Algarve, added: 'We don't get that sort of thing out here.'
The creator of the much-loved Fireman Sam continues to write books and for cartoons along with his charitable work in his retirement.
He rode on the investiture of the Prince of Wales and visited the Knightsbridge barracks as a VIP guest this week with his two daughters.
A Gatwick Airport spokesman said: ‘Our security team are looking at what happened. The matter was dealt with and the passenger made  his journey.’

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