Motorbike clue to arson attack on police helicopter
The arsonist who breached airport security and torched a police helicopter used a trail bike to carry out the attack, it emerged today.
The cabin of the £4.3 million Eurocopter EC-135P2i was “extensively damaged” and two of the rotors broken in the attack at Elmdon airbase, near Sheldon.
An investigation into how the criminals were able to get behind the airport perimeter security fence in the early hours of Sunday is under way.
Wirecutters were used to cut a 6ft hole in the perimeter fence running alongside a secluded alleyway off the Coventry Road. The burned out remains of the bike, identified by forensics experts as a Suzuki DZR 400cc, were found next to the hole following the attack. Tiny fragments of the bike were still visible next to a burnt-out patch of Tarmac in the alleyway yesterday.
Police want to hear from anyone who may have seen the distinctive yellow and white bike in the north Birmingham and Chelmsley Wood area prior to the attack. A source claimed that chief officers believe that the arson was carried by “professionals” although it is understood a terrorist attack has been ruled out.
The helicopter made more than 1,500 flights last year, helping officers to arrest 424 people and recover £3 million of stolen property including stolen vehicle swiped by organised gangs of high-value car thieves. Such organised crime gangs could be among those willing to carry out such a brazen attack.
Detectives said the hunt for whoever destroyed the helicopter was “making good progress”. Chief Insp Mark Payne said: “We want to hear from anyone who knows where this bike was kept in the run-up to the incident. The helicopter had flown hundreds of missions, caught countless criminals and was a key tool in combating crime – this was a crime against the whole community.”
The burnt-out shell of the helicopter has yet to be moved from the landing pad at the Elmdon site, however it has been hidden behind a tarpaulin tent to give forensic experts protection while the painstaking examination continues.
Police stressed that they restored air cover above the West Midlands within two hours of the incident and moves were underway to bring in a permanent replacement.
Chief Insp Payne said residents in north Birmingham, in particular the Marston Green, Stechford and Bickenhill areas, could hold the key to catching the offender. “Did you see a bike like this on a trailer or did you see it being ridden in the area in the days or weeks leading up to the offence?” he asked. “You might have had a bike like this stolen or you might be a retailer who sold one recently. However small the piece of information you have, it could be crucial.”
Witnesses or anyone with information should call police on 0845 113 5000 or the anonymous Crimestoppers hotline on 0800 555 111.