UK
02/09/2013 08:43 BST | Updated 02/09/2013 08:47 BST

Simon Wood, British Airways Pilot, 'Abused Kenyan Children'

PA
Simon Wood

A British Airways pilot used his position to abuse children in Africa, it has been alleged.

First Officer Simon Wood was due to stand trial on child abuse charges, but was found dead earlier this month.

Now the alleged victims are reported to be considering legal action against the airline.

The 54-year-old is alleged to have molested youngsters during stopovers in Kenya after claiming he was carrying out charity work for the airline.

He was set to appear in court last Friday charged with separate child abuse offences in the UK but was found dead on August 18 after being struck by a train.

British Airways said it was "shocked and horrified" to learn of the allegations and insisted it was only made aware of them in July after receiving an anonymous letter.

The airline contacted Scotland Yard after BA's own investigation team uncovered information in Kenya which gave the company "cause for concern", it said.

"We would be absolutely appalled if it transpired that an employee of ours had been cynically using this charitable work as a cover for exploitation of children he was trusted to help," BA said in a statement.

Lawyers representing the alleged victims in Kenya said they are now considering legal action against the airline.

Martyn Day, from legal firm Leigh Day, said: "We are currently investigating how Mr Wood was allowed to have such access to these Kenyan children and also the extent of the allegations against Mr Wood in relation to his actions in the UK.

"Our investigations have only just begun but it's becoming horrifically clear that Mr Wood had access over many years to hundreds of vulnerable children."

The firm said it was currently representing 12 alleged victims in Kenya, adding: "It is believed the number of those who may have been abused may be far greater both in Kenya and the UK."

Wood, from Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, was due to appear at Southwark Crown Court last Friday charged with one count of indecent assault of a girl under 16, two counts of making indecent photographs of a child and one count of possessing indecent images of a child, Scotland Yard said.

At Easter 2002, he was among 20 crew members from two BA flights who volunteered to spend the holiday period with the Kenyan youngsters, showering the orphanage with presents, medicines and donations raised at home.

He told the Press Association, which covered the trip: "We play, sing, organise activities and generally entertain them. We become very close to the children."