News World Bali air scare due to ‘confusion’

Bali air scare due to ‘confusion’

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An Australian man arrested over a hijacking scare at Bali’s airport has been released without charge and is expected to return home on Monday.

Matt Christopher Lockley, 28, was restrained aboard a Virgin Australia flight from Brisbane on Friday after banging on the cockpit door.

The Queensland plumber says he was only looking for the toilet after waking in a confused state.

But his banging caused the pilots to trigger an alert that put the airforce and police on stand-by for the landing at Denpasar, where they were expecting a hijacker.

After assisting police inquiries for about six hours on Sunday, he was released without charge.

Mr Lockley wouldn’t answer reporters’ questions, saying only that Indonesian authorities had been very helpful.

“I made an accident by knocking on the cockpit door,” he said.

“I want to say thank you to the Indonesian police and authorities.

“They only followed procedures and they have provided me with a lot of care and support and I’m grateful for everything they’ve done.”

A Virgin Australia spokesman in Bali on Friday said Mr Lockley was drunk, and others described him as aggressive and “paranoid”.

But he denies being drunk, telling police he had taken only Panadol, Voltaren and Coca Cola before the flight.

Suryambodo Asmoro, Bali police special crime director, says Mr Lockley is free to return to Australia on his own.

“The suspect we released because he has good intentions to go back to his country on his own,” he told reporters on Sunday night.

“So he is going back alone, not accompanied or escorted.”

It’s expected Mr Lockley will return to Brisbane on Monday afternoon.

Rudi Richardo, aviation section security chief in Bali, said after interviewing Mr Lockley, the pilot, co-pilot, cabin crew and air traffic control, it was decided to hand the investigation over to Australia.

“At this moment, we’re handing over Matt to the Australian government and the follow-up departure to the airlines,” he said.

Earlier on Sunday, Mr Lockley left hospital where he was recuperating after the ordeal, and was questioned by aviation officials.

Mr Asmoro confirmed then that he would not be charged by Indonesian police.

“Regarding the legal process, it will be conducted in Australia because what he did in that plane was within a plane registered in Australia,” he said.

Mr Lockley has given samples for drug and alcohol testing, the results of which have not been revealed.

Police say he came to Bali looking for his Indonesian wife, whom he hasn’t seen in weeks.

Virgin Australia on Sunday released a statement saying international protocols require the crew to send an “unlawful interference code” when someone tries to enter the cockpit unlawfully.

It is entered to notify air traffic control of the perceived threat, Virgin says.

“This is used by all airlines internationally to ensure the safety of passengers, crew and the aircraft,” the statement said.

“The captain and crew ensured the highest level of safety was maintained on flight VA41 and followed standard operating procedures.”

Virgin says its crew also followed the correct protocols for keeping in contact with air traffic control prior to landing.

On Friday, Commander of Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport, Airforce Colonel Sugiharto Prapto, said the airport received information of a “hijacking” at 2pm local time.

He said for 30 minutes authorities were unable to communicate with the plane but after making visual contact they boarded and found Mr Lockley already detained at the rear.

Mr Lockley was visited in hospital by Australian consular staff and friends.