A pilot who sexually abused young girls in East Africa killed himself as a “way out” after being arrested, an inquest heard today.
Simon Wood, of Laurel Fields, Potters Bar, took his own life on the railway tracks near Brookmans Park on August 18, 2013.
The 54-year-old worked as a pilot for British Airways and allegedly abused young girls in East Africa aged five to 13-years-old in orphanages and schools during charitable visits through the company.
The airline is being held responsible and solicitor firm Leigh Day are now suing them on behalf of 16 of his alleged victims, who say they were abused between 2002 and 2011.
DI Simon Giles, with the Metropolitan Police, said Mr Wood was arrested on July 19 2013 after he was accused of sexual assault and downloading indecent images to his computer in the car park of Heathrow Airport. He was due to appear at Southwark Crown Court on August 30.
He was then cautioned and bailed to return to Charring Cross police station on August 19, but was arrested again on August 14 at his home.
He was charged the following day for one account of a sexual offence against a girl and 17 counts of possessing indecent images of children and released on bail.
But at 1am on the day of his death he hired a VW Golf from Manchester airport before driving it the 181 miles back to Potters Bar at 1am.
The circumstances surrounding his death remain ambiguous as no train drivers reported hitting a man on the tracks.
However, one did see a man in a grey hooded top and blue jeans near Brookmans Park the time of Mr Wood’s death, but CCTV footage could not confirm this.
Deputy Coroner Graham Danbury said: “It’s not for me to speculate the outcome of any trial had it taken place, nor for anyone else.
“He was clearly in a state of considerable distress and took his own life as a way out.
“I am satisfied he knew what he was doing and he intended his life to be over.”
According to Leigh Day, British Airways attempted to reach a settlement with the law firm but “could not reach a satisfactory agreement”.
Nichola Marshall, a lawyer at Leigh Day who is representing the victims of abuse, said: “We therefore have no options but to commence legal proceedings against the airline in the UK courts.
“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.”
British Airways said it was “shocked and horrified” to hear about the allegations, which they claim was entirely outside of the scope of his employment with the airline.