The Daily Mail are reporting that British Airways have agreed to pay substantial damages to 38 child victims of paedophile pilot Simon Wood who abused them during stopovers in Kenya and Uganda.
During his 16-year career with the airline, the 54 year old First Officer would choose unpopular routes in and out of East Africa and wear a bogus captain’s uniform while grooming vulnerable children from the slums with BA-branded toys and colouring books before subjecting them to horrific ordeals at five-star hotels used by the airline.
His first known contact with children in Africa came in 2001 when he began visiting an orphanage in the Karen area of Nairobi.
During the following Easter, he was among 20 crew members who volunteered to spend the holiday with the youngsters, showering the orphanage with presents, medicines and donations raised at home.
The bachelor first came to the attention of police when he was accused of an indecent assault on an eight-year-old girl who he had met while escorting children on a trip to North Yorkshire in 2000 as a volunteer for Diabetes UK.
Following a tip-off, officers rearrested him over the allegation at Heathrow in July 2013 and during a subsequent search of his laptops, police discovered explicit images of African youngsters.
He appeared in court on August 16, 2013, charged with possessing indecent images and indecently assaulting an eight-year-old girl, but two days later threw himself under a train near his home in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire.
After his crimes came to light, questions were asked over why he was allowed to continue to work near children.
BBC News learned that in July 2004 he was dismissed from the British board of Nairobi-based charity Nyumbani, after he was found taking pictures at the charity of naked children at bath time. He was removed from the board and told not to visit Nyumbani again.
Mike Johnson, another BA pilot who was also on the board said he had informed two senior managers at BA about what had happened but heard nothing back, and left the company the same year.
“Copies of the photographs were obtained and presented to the board.
“We had asked Simon Wood to leave the Nyumbani board and we had suggested to the hospice in Kenya that he shouldn’t visit.
“Whether BA should have been looking at all of his activities and supervising those activities is a very difficult question.” – Mike Johnson, former BA pilot
Despite concerns about his behaviour, in 2007 Wood was a winner in the BA Community Volunteering Awards and three years later given BA’s Corporate Responsibility Award “for dedicating hours of his time” to charity work in Kenya.
Last year, it was reported that BA were facing a damaging lawsuit brought by 38 of his victims after it was argued that the airline had failed to protect them from his abuse.
His African victims were represented by law firm Leigh Day, who claimed he molested victims aged four to 18 in schools and orphanages during stopovers in Kenya and Uganda between 2001 and 2013 while flying for BA.
The lawsuit centred on whether BA could be held liable for the actions of their employee and whether BA ‘had a duty of care for the children abused in the countries Wood visited whilst working for the airline and taking part in charity work’, and today’s news is a victory for the pilot’s victims.
“For three years we have been fighting for compensation for these young girls, whose childhoods were destroyed by the sexual abuse they were subjected to by Simon Wood, a British Airways pilot.
“Now British Airways has agreed to compensate our clients, these girls will be able to complete their education, which for many was seriously disrupted because of the abuse. They will also be able to access therapeutic treatment to help relieve the psychological pain that has resulted from the abuse.
“This settlement should send a message to organisations which send employees to work or volunteer with children. They need proper safeguards to prevent such horrific acts.” – Nicola Marshall, of Leigh Day
In response to news of the statement, one of Wood’s victims said: “The money will help my school fees because it has been a problem to me. And when I finish schooling I would like to start a business which could help me in the future.”
“The allegations against Simon Wood have been shocking and horrifying.
“Though we do not bear any legal responsibility for Simon Wood’s actions, we recognise the impact they had on his victims and the distress and suffering they caused.” – British Airways statement
Leigh Day said a confidentiality agreement meant it could not reveal the exact amount of compensation.