A Frenchman accused of entering Gatwick Airport with an air rifle triggering a terror alert that caused disruption costing £1.2 million has been remanded in custody.

Gatwick Airport London

Gatwick Airport London Image by Lucy Fisher / CC BY 2.0

Jerome Chauris was detained on Saturday after he allegedly walked into the airport’s North Terminal carrying the weapons, forcing the evacuation of thousands of passengers who then had to wait six hours until the area was cleared by bomb squad officers.

His arrest came as security was increased at British ports and public places in response to the attacks by Islamic State gunmen in Paris that claimed 132 lives.

The 41-year-old from Vendome, central France, was later charged with possession of a dangerous article in an aerodrome and possession of a blade in a public place.

According to court documents the weapons were an ‘MP5 calibre 4.5mm air rifle’ and a lock knife.

Chauris appeared in the dock at Crawley Magistrates’ Court, West Sussex, where a minute’s silence was observed for the Paris victims at 11am.

Wearing a white striped shirt and his black shoulder-length hair swept back, he identified himself with the help of an interpreter.

Flanked by two uniformed dock officers throughout the hearing he wept and made several comments in French.

Passengers left waiting for hours for their baggage. Image by Fabio Venni / CC BY-SA 2.0

Passengers faced major disruption at Gatwick last Saturday. Image by Fabio Venni / CC BY-SA 2.0

The incident, which took place at around 9.30am on Saturday, sent parts of the busy airport into lockdown and caused significant disruption to travellers. Air traffic arriving at the North Terminal was diverted to the airport’s southern gates and check-in was closed for six hours, said to have cost airlines and passengers an estimated £1.2m.

The court heard how thousands of passengers and airport staff were evacuated from the terminal’s ‘landside’ concourse, the area before luggage screening and security checks open to the public

Officers from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team then moved into the departure hall and carried out a small controlled explosion on a suspicious package.

The North Terminal remained closed for six hours, although the airport’s South Terminal remained operational.

Prosecutor Beata Murphy applied for the case to be dealt with in the Crown court.

Bench chairwoman, Ann Schroder, remanded Chauris, of no fixed abode, until his next appearance at Lewes Crown Court on December 14.

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