They led to three days of travel chaos and 1,000 flights being canceled or diverted, but drone sightings at Gatwick Airport last week are still managing to cause confusion and uncertainty.
Sightings of drones at the U.K.’s second-largest airport led to a shutdown with 140,000 passengers being affected and many having to cancel their Christmas holiday plans. Speculation on who the perpetrators were at the weekend resulted in confusion when two people were initially arrested but then released and exonerated on Sunday morning.
Police say they had 67 reports of drone sightings, calling them credible, and had also recovered a damaged drone near the perimeter fence of the airport. However, Jason Tingley, a detective chief superintendent at Sussex Police, told the BBC that wet weather could have washed away vital evidence and said there was “always a possibility that there may not have been any genuine drone activity in the first place.”
Tingley also said no footage of a drone had been obtained and police were relying on witness accounts.
“We are interviewing those who have reported these sightings, are carrying out extensive house-to-house inquiries, and carrying out a forensic examination of a damaged drone found near the perimeter of the airport,” Tingley told reporters, according to the BBC.
He added that it was “a working assumption” that the damaged device found could be connected to their investigation, but said officers were keeping “an open mind.”
A government source later told the BBC on Monday that the suggestion there may not have been any drones at Gatwick Airport was a “miscommunication by police.” Sussex Police also issued a clarification on his comments in a statement but it offered little context.
A 47-year-old man and 54-year-old woman, who lived in a town nearby, were arrested on Friday night but were released without charge on Sunday morning. Gatwick Airport Limited has offered a £50,000 ($63,000) reward via independent charity Crimestoppers for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for disrupting the flights.
Gatwick also came out with a new statement Monday morning following the confusion surrounding the incident.
“We are clear that there were multiple confirmed sightings of drone activity at the airport.” it said.
“Therefore we took the necessary actions to ensure the safety of passengers using our airport. Safety will always be our number one priority. We continue to support the police with their investigations into this illegal and deliberate act to disrupt Gatwick airport’s operations.”