A British Airways steward has been sacked after £23,000 went missing from a passenger's briefcase, despite a failure to bring charges against him for the theft.
Ian McClure, 42, a flight attendant of eighteen years, is now challenging his dismissal. A tribunal has heard that BA's internal staff investigation was found to be 'biased and inadequate'.
The incident is alleged to have occurred on a five-and-a-half hour overnight flight from Nigeria to Heathrow in London on April 10, 2011.
A First Class passenger who had been carrying £65,000 in a briefcase secured in his overhead locker complained that £23,000 had gone missing mid-flight. The First Class cabin was almost full with 11 of the 14 seats taken.
Five days after the flight Mr McClure was arrested by police at his home Buckinghamshire. Officers found quantities of notes in £50s and £20s with similar markings to those belonging to the BA customer.
However, detectives could not match the notes with those in the original briefcase and they eventually dropped the charges against Mr McClure.
BA's own procedures ended in the dismissal of Mr McClure, ignoring the results of a police investigation. The decision is now being challenged at an employment tribunal in Reading.
Mr McClure's barrister, Angus Gloag, told the hearing that BA's internal investigation l was 'biased and inadequate
'It's a question of who done it? That's if the money ever existed in the first place,' Mr Gloag said.
'Mr McClure had travelled to Nigeria a couple of weeks before this flight so he had access to money of this type with these markings.
'These are similar markings, not unique.'
Harveen Gupta who carried out the British Airways investigation defended the decision to sack Mr McClure
'Could he really have opened an overhead locker generating noise- and noise is at a premium in First Class - taken the briefcase out, taken it to the toilet, got money out, secreted it on himself or hid it somewhere and put the case back in the locker without anyone seeing anything?
'He had spent a significant amount of time with a nervous customer sitting in 4E.'
Harveen Gupta, an inflight business manager for BA, who carried out the internal inquiry defended the company's investigation.
She said: 'I took the hearing very seriously.
'It took a long time to do this. I believe I gave a very fair hearing.'
Ms Gupta admitted her inquiry was stopped while the police investigation took over.
The court asked her to explain her decision to sack Mr McClure despite no evidence found by police against the flight attendant.
Ms Gupta said: 'The explanation given to me by Mr McClure was that the money had come from a UK Bank Society.
'The markings were similar to that described by the customer.
'I found that strange.'
The tribunal, held before Judge Andrew Gumbiti-Zimuto, continues.