Shoreham disaster families say they have been let down by the justice

Andrew Hill outside the Old Bailey Described as a competent, “safety conscious” pilot and an “absolute gentleman”, he dismissed prosecutors’ claims he took risks, saying he was not “cavalier” and took a “very structured, disciplined approach” to display flying.He told jurors he held back from flights he was not comfortable with and said the “primary aim” of displays was to “avoid risk”. But Hill conceded he had only limited experience in the Hunter.He told the court there may have been gaps in his training on what were termed “basic” details of how to fly the plane.Hill also said he had not read some of the guidance notes on how to safely and properly operate the aircraft.Youngest victim’s mother ‘let down’ by verdictThe mother of the youngest Shoreham Airshow crash victim said she feels “let down” by the justice system after the pilot was cleared of manslaughter charges.A jury found Andrew Hill not guilty of the 11 counts over the 2015 crash.An official Government report into the accident, published in 2017, found the crash was caused by pilot error when Mr Hill flew too low and too slowly while carrying out the bent loop manoeuvre, and could have been avoided.Leslye Polito, who lost her son Daniele in the crash, said: “I feel extremely disappointed, very upset and primarily let down by the justice system when someone who has clearly made some very bad errors of judgment is allowed to walk free.”The 23-year-old builder left behind two young children, one of whom he never had chance to meet. Daniele Polito Mrs Polito, 66, of Goring in West Sussex, said: “The whole fact that it was avoidable, that was the hardest bit to consider and process. It’s still the hardest bit.””Bye mum, love you” were the last words Mrs Polito heard her youngest son say, as she had so many times before when he left the house.That day he had been at work with 24-year-old Matt Jones, who also died in the crash. Their boss had let them leave early to enjoy the hot weather and they were driving to the beach in Mr Jones’s car.Daniele was identified five after the crash by his unique tattoos – which included a design dedicated to his son Georgio who was barely three when his father died.Mrs Polito said: “If there’s anything good about it, which there isn’t, it’s that it was all instant. It helps to know that.”One just learns to live each day as it comes and take every day and live as normally as one can.”Every birthday, Christmas, Father’s Day – it doesn’t matter what they are, they are all equally as difficult as the anniversary (of the incident).”Daniele was never able to meet his youngest son, Jaxson, who was born after he died, Mrs Polito said. He began studying engineering and then transferred to computer science, graduating with an honours degree in 1985.Going straight into the RAF afterwards, he won a competition when flying a Jet Provost and was a top performing student.He was selected – or as he put it “creamed off the top” – to become an instructor.Training in combat, he took part in active service for a month in the 1990s, monitoring no-fly zones in northern Iraq. The families of the men killed in the Shoreham Airshow disaster have said they have been “let down by the justice system” after the pilot was cleared of manslaughter. Andrew Hill, 54, was accused of killing 11 people when his Hawker Hunter jet ploughed into the A27 in West Sussex.The pilot had been attempting to perform a loop when disaster struck during his display at the Shoreham Airshow on August 22, 2015.The prosecution had claimed that Mr Hill had a “cavalier attitude” to safety and had previously taken unnecessary risks during airshows.But his defence team claimed he had been affected by the G Forces which had caused a subtle “cognitive impairment” related to hypoxia and the jury returned unanimous not guilty verdicts.Leslye Polito, who lost her son Daniele in the crash, said: “I feel extremely disappointed, very upset and primarily let down by the justice system when someone who has clearly made some very bad errors of judgment is allowed to walk free.”The 23-year-old builder – the disaster’s youngest victim – left behind two young children, one of whom he never had chance to meet.Sue and Phil Grimstone, whose son Matthew died in the crash, said they were “devastated the jury have reached this verdict”. They said their son had “no interest” in airshows, and suggested they should be banned. In the statement released through Sussex Police, they said: “Matthew had no interest in air shows, he could not have cared less. Knowing he died because an aircraft was being flown for fun, for the entertainment of others makes it even harder to bear.”It has to be remembered that this is a leisure industry, it is not a necessity.” He said it was the fact he was biased that was the concern, not that he had been in favour of the defendant.Another woman joined the panel in his place.But part way through the trial the jury had to be reduced to 11 – leaving seven women and four men – after another juror was discharged due to ill health.Shoreham Airshow timeline: the key eventsA timeline of the Shoreham Airshow crash and developments in the investigations:August 22, 2015, 1.22pm: A vintage Hawker Hunter jet flown by pilot Andrew Hill crashes mid-stunt on to the A27 at Shoreham in West Sussex during an airshow, killing 11 men. Hill survives the crash with serious injuries after he was thrown clear from the wreckage. He is taken to hospital and put in an induced coma before being discharged a month later.August 23: The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Sussex Police all launch probes into the crash.August 24:  The CAA temporarily grounds all Hawker Hunters and limits vintage jets to flypasts during airshows.September 2: The identities of all 11 victims are officially confirmed as an inquest is opened and adjourned by West Sussex senior coroner Penelope Schofield. The jury deliberated for just over seven hours.Families of the victims have spoken about feeling “let down” by the verdict, suggesting air show should be banned in light of the disaster.  Who is Andrew Hill?Shoreham Airshow crash pilot Andrew Grenville Hill was a Cambridge graduate who was top of the class in the RAF, winning competitions for his flying.A captain with British Airways until the tragedy, he grew up in Kent and went to Tonbridge School, a private boarding school that counts Norman Heatley – who turned penicillin into usable medicine – among its alumni.Telling the court he was “reasonably academic” and an A-grade pupil at school, Hill was allowed to enrol at Cambridge University without taking the entrance exam, attending Christ’s College. He also started to fly a Harrier – capable of vertical take-off and landing – and won an award for his work and ideas on improving aircraft safety procedures.Turning to civil aviation, he became a commercial pilot, starting with Virgin Atlantic before moving to British Airways and progressing to the most senior position of captain.He gained a reputation as an experienced pilot but nearly died at the side of the road after the Hawker Hunter he was flying in 2015 crashed in a fireball on to the A27 in West Sussex.Hill, who now lives in Sandon, Buntingford, in Hertfordshire, suffered serious injuries and was placed into an induced coma before being discharged from hospital a month later.He had fractured his nose, ribs and part of his lower spine and suffered a collapsed lung and serious bruising among other injuries. Daniele Polito June 20: The police say the criminal investigation is 95% complete at a pre-inquest hearing.November 1: Families hit out after their application for exceptional case funding legal aid, which will pay for costs incurred when lawyers represent them at the inquest, was rejected. Prime Minister Theresa May asks the Lord Chancellor David Lidington to intervene. November 22: A memorial service takes place to honour the victims.December 15: Hill is interviewed by police officers from the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team under caution after voluntarily attending a station near his Hertfordshire home but is not arrested.April 14, 2016: The CAA says it is tightening rules for all show organisers when it publishes its final report in the wake of the crash.July 8: It emerges police are investigating Hill for manslaughter by gross negligence and endangerment of life under air navigation laws.January 24, 2017: The CAA agrees to accept all the safety measures made by the AAIB in the wake of the tragedy, meaning stricter safety rules for pilots and organisers, after it initially rejected almost half of the recommendations.March 3: The AAIB publishes its findings in a 219-page report following one of its longest investigations in recent years. Investigators found the disaster was caused by the pilot flying too slow and too low during a loop manoeuvre. Matthew Grimstone was one of those killed Andrew Hill He had left work early and was travelling to the beach with a colleague when flames engulfed their car after the plane crashed on the A27. Andrew Hill This ignored the directions given in court, Mr Justice Edis said, adding: “That is a clear statement of bias.”I made the order that he was not to come back into the building. I don’t want him talking to jurors and spreading that bias.” November 30: The coroner says prosecutors have been provided with a complete case file and are to decide whether criminal charges will be brought.January 24, 2018: A pre-inquest review is postponed until March 26 to allow prosecutors more time to consider the case file.March 21: Prosecutors meet victims’ families at police headquarters in Lewes, East Sussex, to inform them of their charging decision. The CPS announces it is charging Hill with manslaughter by gross negligence and endangerment of an aircraft.May 15: Hill pleads not guilty to 11 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence and one of recklessly or negligently endangering an aircraft under aviation laws.January 16, 2019: Hill stands trial at the Old Bailey accused of manslaughter by gross negligence. Prosecutors drop the final charge of endangering an aircraft.March 8: The jury deliver their verdict. Hill is cleared. Speaking for the first time in public since the incident when he gave evidence at the trial, he denied having a “cavalier” attitude, insisting he was known for his safety record.He has never watched footage that captured the moment of the crash and lowered his head when is was played to jurors.The court heard this was on medical advice from his doctor over fears of how it would affect him.He is now in good health, with medical checks before and after the crash showing no signs of a condition that would have affected him at the time, the court heard.The 54-year-old spent much of the proceedings taking notes while sitting in the dock or leaning down to follow documents of evidence.Wearing a dark suit for the proceedings, his manner appeared jovial as he made a few jokes while standing in the witness box giving his testimony. They added: “Why are we allowing any form of aerobatics to be performed when there is now doubt concerning any pilot’s ability to avoid becoming cognitively impaired from the normal G forces that will be experienced during an aerobatic display?”Matthew had no interest in air shows, he could not have cared less. Knowing he died because an aircraft was being flown for fun, for the entertainment of others makes it even harder to bear. “It has to be remembered that this is a leisure industry, it is not a necessity.”Juror discharged for bias during trialA juror was discharged for saying he would “never” consider convicting anybody over the Shoreham Airshow crash.It happened on the first day of the trial, after the jury had been sworn in and before the prosecution had opened its case, but can only be reported now the case has concluded.The man was one of five on the original panel, alongside seven women.Mr Justice Edis told the court after the jury were selected that the man admitted to staff he knew something about the incident, before he had learnt any details about the case from court.The judge said the man remarked that he was “never going to find anybody guilty” because it was an accident and “they could say what they like but he was never going to change his mind”. Video footage played at the Old Bailey showed the jet exploding into a ball of flames as it came down.Hill, who was thrown from the cockpit wreckage, was seriously injured and told medics he had “blacked out”, the court has heard.The defendant, of Sandon, Buntingford, Hertfordshire has denied 11 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence.Mr Justice Edis sent the jury out to deliberate on its verdicts on Wednesday afternoon, and returned on Friday with their verdict.  Speaking outside of court, Mr Hill said he was “truly sorry for the part I played in their deaths”, and said it was a day he would “never forget”.The victims are Maurice Abrahams, 76; Dylan Archer, 42; Tony Brightwell, 53; Matthew Grimstone, 23; Matt Jones, 24; Graham Mallinson, 72; Daniele Polito, 23; Mark Reeves, 53; Jacob Schilt, 23; Richard Smith, 26; and Mark Trussler, 54, who all lived in Sussex. Matthew Grimstone was one of those killed Although they have “two lovely little boys to carry on his name”, she said this was “bittersweet”, adding: “We have that but we don’t have him and he won’t get to see either of them grow up.”We will make sure they know all about their daddy. We talk about Daniele all the time, every day.”Airshows ‘should be banned’, suggest victim’s familyIn a statement issued via Sussex Police, Sue and Phil Grimstone, whose son Matthew died in the crash, said: “Obviously we are devastated the jury have reached this verdict.”There seems to be no justice for our son Matthew and all 11 men who died in such tragic circumstances.”We were always told by the police that to prove guilty due to “gross negligence” the bar was set very high. Despite having compelling evidence from the cockpit footage and expert witnesses, it was not enough.” Andrew Hill outside the Old BaileyCredit:Kirsty O’Connor/PA As the verdict was read out in court some of the families of those who died sobbed, while others looked resigned. Mr Hill stood in the dock as the unanimous verdicts were given.It can now be revealed that during the trial one of the jurors was discharged after saying he would never consider convicting anyone over the Shoreham disaster.Mr Justice Edis acknowledged the families were “enormously upset” as he praised the “very dignified way” they conducted themselves throughout the trial Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. read more