The police have arrested an employee of the Universal Aviation Services (UAS), a private firm contracted by several airline companies for their ground operations, on the charge of planting a firecracker on a Kingfisher airlines that arrived here from Bangalore on April 21.

The arrested person, Rajasekharan Nair (49), was a former Central Industrial Security Force officer. He joined the UAS as an aircraft cleaning supervisor after serving the CISF for 20 years.

The twin turboprop short-haul airliner, having a seating capacity of 66, landed at the airport here at 8. a.m. on April 21with 27 passengers. Its cargo-hold is at the tail-end, just after the galley where the crew prepare food for passengers.

Two UAS personnel, Suresh and Asokan, entered the cargo-hold to unload the freight. Subsequently, Mr. Nair entered the hold. Minutes later, he emerged out with a firecracker and told Manoj Cherian, another UAS supervisor, that he found it on the floor of the cargo-hold.

Airhostesses told the investigators here that they visited the galley several times during the flight from Bangalore and none of them noticed the firecracker.

Suresh and Asokan said they saw no cracker while unloading the freight. The investigators verified the ground crew at the Bangalore airport and also the antecedents of the passengers and found nothing amiss.

Mr. Nair told the investigators that three UAS staff, who recently left the firm for employment in Afghanistan, could have planted the cracker. The police summoned them, all residents of Vallakadavu, and questioned them in Bangalore. Officials found they had no hand in the mischief.

The investigators found that a 10th standard term-end examination question paper was used as the outer cover for making the cracker. They found that the printing press had sold the excess question papers to a licensed fireworks manufacturer in Palode.

The manufacturer told the police that the firecracker was his company's product and that he regularly conducted firework displays. He recently conducted a display at a temple near Mr. Nair's house at Valiyarathala in Nemom.

Carried it in socks

He told investigators that Mr. Nair was instrumental in organising the display and was one of his four helpers.

The police said Mr. Nair confessed to the crime when the investigators confronted him with evidence.

The police suspect that Mr. Nair's motive could be to spite a higher-up in his firm. They said he carried the firecracker in his socks. The accused was produced before the court and remanded to judicial custody.

Inspector-General of Police A. Hemachandran, City Police Commissioner M. R. Ajith Kumar, Deputy Commissioners C.H. Nagaraju and Jolly Cherian and Assistant Commissioner K. C. Sasikumar investigated the case.

Correction

The first paragraph of the report was “The police have arrested an employee of the Universal Aviation Services (UAS) … on the charge of planting a firecracker on a Kingfisher airlines that arrived here from Bangalore on April 21”, while the third paragraph was “The twin turboprop … landed at the airport here at 8 a.m. on April 21 with 27 passengers.” In both instances, the date should have been March 21.