British diplomat accused of drunken rage on flight acquitted

A British diplomat accused of going on a drunken rampage aboard an airplane was acquitted by a jury Tuesday. Col. Peter Roberts, 51, was the British defense attache in Thailand when, prosecutors alleged, he went on a rampage aboard a Feb. 17 flight from Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, to London. They said Roberts threatened to kill crew members and passengers and had to be bound with plastic ties until the plane landed and he could be arrested. Roberts told a jury at Isleworth Crown Court in west London that he had been haunted by memories of what he saw in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami. He said he had accidentally taken too much of the prescribed antidepressant Seroxat and claimed to have no memory of his behavior aboard the plane.

The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for five hours and 23 minutes before acquitting Roberts of being drunk aboard an aircraft.

In a statement, defense lawyer Look Chih Wang said Roberts apologized for his behavior but maintained that he had not been drunk.

"His behavior was due to a temporary abnormality of function caused by long-term chronic stress, tsunami-related post-traumatic stress, sleep deprivation and a combination of the antidepressant Seroxat and alcohol," the statement said.

However, judge Usha Karu refused a defense application for costs, saying Roberts had "brought the matter on himself" by mixing alcohol and antidepressants.

"I took a view of the case that the defendant, in my view, was on notice when he boarded the plane as to what the effect of alcohol would have been on him and he brought the prosecution on himself and I will not award defense costs," she said, reports the AP.

D.M.