Major police operation almost brings Gibraltar to a standstill

The runway, which was blocked for two hours on Wednesday.
The runway, which was blocked for two hours on Wednesday. / D. Bartlett
  • Traffic jams lasted for hours and flights were delayed on Wednesday when the police prevented an RAF plane from taking off

It is not unknown for traffic in Gibraltar to be brought to a standstill because of delays at the border with Spain, but on Wednesday this occurred for a different reason: the Royal Gibraltar Police carried out a major operation at the airport, closing the runway for two hours and preventing flights from taking off and vehicles from crossing.

Although nothing has yet been confirmed by the police, the Ministry of Defence or the Gibraltar government, the local press reported that an RGP vehicle drove onto the runway to physically prevent a Royal Air Force plane from leaving.

The police allegedly wanted to question a passenger on the RAF aircraft, who is said to be a serving member of the British forces. This passenger was reportedly the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation in Britain, although some local media have claimed that he was being investigated for possible sexual offences which may have taken place in Gibraltar.

Gibraltar police were apparently also keen to examine a computer which was being carried by the man.

After lengthy discussions, police officers took the computer equipment and escorted the man from the aircraft. The RGP says no arrests were made, but it is believed that the man in question remained in custody of the Ministry of Defence in Gibraltar while investigations continued.

The situation on Wednesday afternoon was extremely tense because it called into question the matter of who has jurisdiction in cases such as this. The Royal Gibraltar Police has priority in investigating offences which take place in Gibraltar, but some people who witnessed the incident say the MOD tried to stop the police car from blocking the runway to stop the military plane taking off.

This was an unprecendented situation, around which there is still a strong element of mystery, but those who were held up in traffic jams for several hours, and passengers whose flights were unable to take off while the incident played out, were only relieved when it was all over; they were finally on their way and Gibraltar returned to nor mal.