African girls to sue British Airways over alleged abuse by pilot

LONDON, July 30 Wed Jul 30, 2014 3:51am EDT

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LONDON, July 30 (Reuters) - Girls and young women who allege they were sexually abused by a British Airways (BA) pilot in African schools and orphanages plan to sue the airline, a law firm representing them said on Wednesday.

Lawyers argue that BA should be held responsible for the actions of First Officer Simon Wood who carried out the alleged crimes during stopovers in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Wood, 54, was found dead after being hit by a train in August 2013, two weeks before he was due in court on charges of indecent assault and making indecent photos of a child.

"We allege that Wood was able to abuse the victims, by reason of his employment with the airline, in particular through his involvement with the airlines' community relations work," said Nichola Marshall, a lawyer at Leigh Day which is representing 16 alleged victims aged from eight to 20.

"The schools and orphanages that our clients attended were all in receipt of charitable donations from the airline, and Wood played a key role in administering those donations, on behalf of British Airways."

A team from the law firm would meet with other possible victims in Kenya and Uganda in the coming weeks, she said.

"We were shocked and horrified to hear the allegations against Simon Wood, which appear to relate to his involvement in child-related activities entirely outside the scope of his employment with British Airways," BA said in a statement.

The case will be heard in a London court. (Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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