Australian charged in Singapore for inflight bomb threat

SINGAPORE (AFP): An Australian man was charged in Singapore on Saturday for making a bomb threat on board a Perth-bound plane that forced the aircraft to turn back under fighter jet escort.

Hawkins Kevin Francis, 30, faces up to 10 years in jail or a fine not exceeding Sg$500,000 ($356,000) or both on conviction.

Flight TR16 operated by Singapore budget carrier Scoot was forced to turn back to the city-state an hour into the journey on Thursday after the threat was made.

Singapore's air force scrambled fighter jets to escort the aircraft back and the plane landed safely. Police said the threat was false.

Francis, who was not identified at that time, was arrested by police who boarded the plane.

He allegedly told a member of the cabin crew "I have a bomb" during the flight, according to the charge sheet.

He also "uttered the word 'bomb' repeatedly" to another cabin crew member.

Despite knowing the threat to be false, Francis wanted to make the cabin crew believe "that a terrorist act will be carried out". He committed an offence under the United Nations (Anti-Terrorism Measures) Regulations, the charge sheet said.

Wearing an olive green T-shirt, the Australian heard the charges, filed at a district court, via video conference and said he understood them.

He was sporting a beard, looked somber and spoke slowly.

The court ordered him to be remanded to the Institute of Mental Health for two weeks for psychiatric observation before his case is heard again on October 27.

During Saturday's proceedings, he asked if he could get "an airplane ticket back to my home country in Australia" but was told it was not possible at this time.

His request to make a statement to the court was also denied.

Scoot is the low-cost arm of Singapore Airlines.

Singapore's air force previously scrambled fighter jets to escort commercial airliners after bomb threats in 2022, 2019 and 2018. - AFP

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