'Passenger swore and then tried to kill me'

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The Independent Online
AN AIR STEWARDESS broke down yesterday as she described how she thought she was going to die at the hands of a drunken passenger who clubbed and then slashed her with a broken vodka bottle.

Fiona Weir, aged 31, who had just resumed work after her honeymoon, needed 18 stitches to her arms and body after being set upon by a drunken man.

The attack, on Friday at the end of an Airtours flight from Gatwick to Malaga, highlighted the growing problem of airline staff being assaulted and abused by passengers.

Ms Weir had repeatedly warned unemployed Steven Handy, 37, of Dover, about his behaviour after she had caught him smoking in the aircraft's toilet.

Ms Weir, of Wimbledon, south-west London, said she was telling Mr Handy to behave himself when pandemonium broke out.

"I thought he was going to kill me," she said. "As we approached our stand, and the engines were switched off, the captain made an announcement to the passengers to remain seated with their seatbelts fastened and they were informed that an incident had occurred on the flight and the police were coming on the aircraft.

"When we arrived at the stand the passengers were told to remain seated but unfortunately a female passenger a few rows away from Steve started using abusive language at him and this got him very agitated.

"They started to argue. I then said to this lady to please remain seated but she refused.

"Steve was now out of his seat and I very calmly turned round and said: 'Steve, please get back in your seat'."

Ms Weir said the female passenger then turned around and Mr Handy asked her: "Are you laughing at me you ... bitch?"

She said: "He just turned and raised the bottle and hit it across my head.

"Obviously I was stunned and I fell to the floor. I remember I put my hand up, my right arm which is where I have got the stitches, above my head. I knew the bottle had smashed and he smashed the broken bottle across my arm.

"I screamed for someone to help me. My female colleague could do nothing because it was obviously happening within seconds.

"If she had tried to help me I am sure he would have just put the bottle in her face.

"I knew he was not going to stop so I turned my back to try and protect my head and he continued to bash the bottle on my head."

Ms Weir eventually managed to crawl to safety through a half-open cabin door before passengers and police overpowered Mr Handy.

But Mr Handy, who managed to get on the flight by buying a cut-price pounds 35 ticket after cashing a dole cheque, appeared unrepentant and blamed the assault on Ms Weir's behaviour.

Mr Handy, who spent the flight topping up orange from a concealed bottle of duty-free vodka, is sleeping on Spanish beaches until his next appearance at the court in Malaga where he is charged with endangering an aircraft and assault. Emerging from the court on Saturday, missing a shoe and dressed in a dirty tracksuit, he said: "She asked me to sit down but I didn't like the way she said it. She was aggressive so I did her. If someone starts on me I'll go for them, even if it's a woman."

Shaun Robinson, a spokesman for Airtours, said the company was "outraged" that Mr Handy did not have his passport removed by the court. "This man is clearly dangerous. He admits he attacked her but the court has allowed him to roam the streets giving him the chance to attack other women."