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Innocent mum accused of terror act

PUBLISHED: 17:05 13 November 2008 | UPDATED: 15:36 07 September 2010

A HAMPSTEAD mother was mistaken for a terrorist and held at gunpoint at Gatwick Airport because she tried to retrieve toys she had accidentally left on a plane. Emma Goldman, an English teacher and head of the PTA at the exclusive Royal School Hampstead i

A HAMPSTEAD mother was mistaken for a terrorist and held at gunpoint at Gatwick Airport because she tried to retrieve toys she had accidentally left on a plane.

Emma Goldman, an English teacher and head of the PTA at the exclusive Royal School Hampstead in Rosslyn Hill, was surrounded by armed police after returning to the aircraft she had left minutes earlier with eight-year-old daughter Harriet.

Just before reaching passport control, Harriet realised she had left her bag of glass figurines from Venice on the plane. Her mother left her with their travelling companions to go back to the plane and collect them.

"We were just five minutes off the plane and there were people coming off behind us, so I just had the impulse to run back," said the 45-year-old single mother. "A little way ahead were double doors which we had just passed through. Seeing a green button marked 'exit' I pressed it and the doors swung open. I passsed through two more similar sets of doors."

Ms Goldman made it as far as the chute leading to the plane entrance and knocked on the door, asking if anyone was inside.

"I then heard all these screams behind me: 'Got her, got her, that's the lone female!' I turned around and police with guns were charging towards me and asking me what I'd put on the plane," she said.

"I thought they'd realise it was just a misunderstanding, I tried to wave it off and apologised to them. But they took me downstairs to a van with a horrible cage inside. They opened the back doors and my heart started racing - that's when I felt really scared."

After hours in a padded cell at Crawley Custody Centre, Ms Goldman, who suffers claustrophobia, was interrogated by police officers. She also had her DNA tested and fingerprints and pictures taken.

To add to her ordeal, Ms Goldman then had to appear in court over the charges and worry about a prison sentence, even though police on the evening said she should be released.

"Once they established I wasn't a terrorist they were sympathetic," she said. "They didn't want to charge me but the CPS insisted - how is that in the public interest?

"I had to go to the Magistrates Court. All these kids were there getting Asbos and there was fuddy duddy old me. Everyone I know thinks it's just a dinner party story and they call me Emma bin Laden.

"I really have been shell-shocked and frightened. I have nightmares about the cell and I can't help thinking what could have happened.

"I had my Puffa jacket with me but thankfully I left it with Harriet. If I had been wearing that, I might have been shot. This has left me really shaken. Thankfully my friends looked after Harriet and kept her calm."

Police confirmed they arrested Ms Goldman for breaching three emergency glass door seals. "As a result, alarms were activated," said a spokeswoman. "Every security breach is treated with the utmost seriousness and it is our duty to investigate - the public would expect nothing less."

A CPS spokeswoman said they regarded the incident as "a serious security breach which merits prosecution.''

Ms Goldman was given a conditional discharge by Crawley Magistrates.


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