Paul Gait and Elaine Kirk are being questioned by police (Image: Facebook)
Paul Gait, 47, and his wife Elaine Kirk, 54, were arrested on Friday at their home in Crawley, West Sussex, on suspicion of being behind the drone assaults which caused misery to hundreds of thousands of Christmas holidaymakers. The shutdown started at 9pm on Wednesday, when two drones were spotted flying “over the perimeter”. The runway briefly reopened at 3am on Thursday but was closed soon after following “a further sighting of drones”. Another drone was spotted at about 11am.
Mr Gait, a self-employed builder and window fitter, is believed to have an interest in remote control vehicles and used a small drone, helicopter and cars as a hobby.
Last night, his ex-partner said he could not have been the culprit as he was sitting in her home drinking tea at the height of the drone activity on Thursday morning.
Gemma Allard, 40, of Crowborough, East Sussex, the boss at Allard Double Glazing, where Mr Gait still works, said: “I know Paul very well, he comes to my house every morning. I’ve got a child with him.”
She claimed: “The morning of this going on, he was sitting with me in my front room having a cup of tea with me, and the rest of the day he was working for me at my clients’ houses.
The drones caused massive disruption to flights from Gatwick airport (Image: GETTY)
Scores of Gatwick flights were delayed or called (Image: GETTY)
“Paul works for me as a double glazing installer, he goes straight into work where numerous people would have seen him. The police need to let him out of custody and catch the right people.
“He is a model aircraft enthusiast, he had a drone.”
She alleged: “He hasn’t got a drone at present, but the police don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to release him because they want to keep the public happy in my view.”
Last night Mr Gait’s mother Margaret, 70, said: “We’re just so shocked. I last spoke to him on Monday. It’s just not the sort of thing that Paul would do. He’s a nice person.”
Drones are operated by remote control (Image: GETTY)
Mr Gait’s father Francis, 72, said: “I can’t believe Paul’s involved in this.
“People know he’s had helicopters and things. He’s had some cracking helicopters and enjoyed flying them, but I think he just ended up selling them all.”
Last night Ian Kirk, 50, who split up with his former wife Elaine 10 years ago, went to the couple’s house to collect their dogs, Sid and Maddie. Mr Gait and Miss Kirk are believed to have met through their shared love of dogs.
Mr Kirk said: “There’s no way that Elaine did it. She hates toy aircraft. She will be absolutely devastated and heart broken.
“I don’t know why they banged her up, it’s disgraceful, she’s a really fragile woman.”
Neighbours described Mr Gait and Ms Kirk as “absolutely charming” with one adding he would be “staggered” if they were involved in the airport havoc.
The pair have lived in their £500,000 two-storey detached brick-home, which is about two miles from the airport, for six years.
Last summer they were seen by neighbours clearing up a communal garden in their close. Last night police vehicles were parked outside their home and officers could be seen going in and out.
Earlier neighbours in the cul-de-sac were spoken to by police conducting door-to-door inquiries.
Neighbour Ludmila Adomako, 69, a retired worker for the Home Office, said she believed she saw Mr Gait going to his silver Vauxhall Astra car outside his home an hour before he was arrested at about 10pm. Ms Adomako, who is originally from Russia and has been his neighbour for years, said: “I assume it was him going in and out of it the car.”
She said police officers had been asking her and other neighbours about Mr Gait and admitted neighbours were bothered by aeroplane noise from Gatwick and alarmed to receive letters from the airport about plans to expand the use of its emergency runway to accommodate more flights.