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More than a dozen East African girls and young women plan to sue British Airways alleging they were sexually abused by one if its pilots.
The incidents took place in various schools and orphanages and involved victims aged from eight to 20, a law firm representing them said Wednesday.
The revelations come a week after an American teenager, Matthew Lane Durham, was arrested and charged for allegedly sexually abusing children aged between 4 and ten years at Upendo Children’s Home in Nairobi.
Lawyers argue that the airline should be held responsible for the actions of First Officer Simon Wood who carried out the alleged crimes during stopovers in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
Wood, 54, was found dead after being hit by a train in August last year, two weeks before he was due in court on charges of indecent assault and making indecent photos of a child.
“We allege that Wood was able to abuse the victims by reason of his employment with the airline, in particular through his involvement with the airlines’ community relations work,” said Nichola Marshall, a lawyer at Leigh Day which is representing 16 alleged victims.
“The schools and orphanages that our clients attended were all in receipt of charitable donations from the airline and Wood played a key role in administering those donations on behalf of British Airways.”
A team from the law firm would meet with other possible victims in Kenya and Uganda in the coming weeks, she said.
British media reports suggest there may be as many as 50 victims.
In 2002, Wood was among 20 crew members from two BA flights who volunteered to spend the Easter holiday with Kenyan youngsters, showering the orphanage with presents, medicines and donations raised at home.
He told journalists: “We play, sing, organise activities and generally entertain them. We become very close to the children.”
“We were shocked and horrified to hear the allegations against Simon Wood, which appear to relate to his involvement in child-related activities entirely outside the scope of his employment with British Airways,” BA said in a statement.
The case will be heard in a London court.
– Business Daily