A former police officer had her tiny gun necklace confiscated at airport security because it was “too dangerous” and passengers might think it was real.
Claire Sharp, who used to work for special branch, had the piece of jewellery taken off her as she was travelling to Perugia in Italy from London Stansted Airport on Friday.
The charm had sentimental value as it was a present from her husband Nigel Greenwood, who died suddenly in 2001, aged just 32 from a heart attack, because of their shared love of shooting and membership of a gundog club.
It is around an inch long and Sharp wears it everyday in memory of her late husband who she described at the time as her “best friend.”
Sharp was travelling with her current husband, Lee, who is also a sergeant in the Met Police, and their 12-year-old daughter, Faye, when airport security staff told her she would not be able to take the necklace on the plane.
The 46-year-old was then told it could either be posted to her at her expense or kept by security until she returned three days later.
When she returned Sharp discovered she would be charged £8 (about $11) for “lost property services” despite being told it would be free.
The mom-of-three, who is now a company director for her own dog food company, says she has travelled through other airports in the U.K., abroad and even Stansted in the past, and not had the gold pendant removed.
She said: “I was being searched by a female security officer and she saw my necklace and said ‘this might be a problem’.
“She then called over a male officer who asked me to take it off so he could look at it.
“I explained it was just a charm, that it had been bought for me by my late husband and that it had been through airport security on loads of occasions – including Stansted – without issue.
“He then took it off to ask his supervisor and came back saying it would need to be confiscated as it was an imitation firearm.
“He said it could either be posted to me at a charge or kept at the airport until I returned to the U.K. I opted for the latter. However, when we returned, I was charged £8 to get it back.
“As an aside from flying, I’ve worn that necklace having gone through security at Westminster Abbey to go to the Metropolitan Police Christmas carol service and have been there alongside dignitaries, high ranking police officers and the Home Secretary… with no problem whatsoever.
“The lack of common sense displayed at Stansted was astounding. To be charged £8 for the privilege of their idiocy just added insult to injury. My fingers underneath my jumper pointed at someone looks more like a real gun than my necklace.
“I told the security officer that the necklace had huge sentimental value and why but they didn’t care.
“We were travelling with our 12-year-old daughter who was distressed because I was crying. It was an awful start to what was supposed to be a nice weekend away visiting friends.”
Sharp says the incident was even more traumatic because of the emotional attachment to the necklace.
She added: “I was widowed in 2001, I woke up and found my 32-year-old husband dead in bed next to me. Which was traumatic. So jewellery I have from him is particularly important to me. I’m angry now but in the airport, it made me cry to have it confiscated.
“I was in special branch for seven years so I’m fully aware of how airport security works. My police sergeant husband just couldn’t believe what was happening.
“Last week I flew from Gatwick to Iceland wearing it, with no issue. I’d been to Moscow in November where they’re mad on security and they had no issue with my necklace.”
Stansted apologized but said anything that could be mistaken for a weapon could not be taken on a plane.
A spokesman said: “Apologies for the inconvenience caused. However, under CAA regulations any novelty items, replicas and imitation firearms capable of being mistaken for real weapons will be deemed unsuitable for carriage and reasonably would be confiscated at our security.
“We understand that security is not one of the most pleasant parts of your journey, however for the safety of everyone, this is our top priority and all regulations must to be adhered to.”
The CAA rules state “any item that resembles a firearm in any way, whether capable of firing a projectile or not, is prohibited” and cannot even be taken in cabin luggage.
A spokesman for the CAA confirmed it was up to the individual security officers’ to decide whether to confiscate an object they deemed potentially dangerous.