Tribunal hears from BA steward who was 'victim of antisemitism'

By Marcus Dysch, July 18, 2012

An air steward who was sacked by British Airways for an alleged assault has claimed he was the victim of antisemitic abuse from a colleague.

Jean-Paul Van der Velde told an employment tribunal that a row had erupted in a New York bar as BA staff discussed Nazis and the Holocaust.

Mr Van der Velde, whose father survived two concentration camps, had worked for the airline for 17 years. He was dismissed five months after the March 2010 incident.

The tribunal heard how crew members had been enjoying a night out during a stop-over in New York.

Mr Van der Velde claimed that during a discussion about the rise of neo-Nazis and economic conditions in Germany, colleague Paul Meek had launched an antisemitic tirade and said "the Jews were a nuisance, that they deserved it".

Following the row Mr Van der Velde told BA staff he felt "shocked and insulted" and left the bar. The next day he flew back to Heathrow and told bosses he was still upset by what had happened.

Mr Meek returned to Britain on a later flight, appearing at the airport with a black eye and claiming Mr Van der Velde had headbutted him. Mr Van der Velde, who lives near Lisburn, Northern Ireland, denies the assault. None of the other crew members witnessed the alleged attack.

A month later 50-year-old Mr Van der Velde was suspended by BA. An investigation was conducted and he was ultimately dismissed in August 2010. He is claiming unfair dismissal.

Crew manager Marc Learoyd conducted the BA investigation and told Watford Employment Tribunal that Mr Meek had claimed he had been berated by his Jewish colleague for living in Germany and was then headbutted.

Mr Learoyd said he thought crew members may have covered up the attack. Mr Meek had not wanted any action taken against Mr Van der Velde, he said.

The two-day tribunal ended on Tuesday, with the judgment reserved until a later date, expected to be next month.

    Last updated: 10:40am, July 18 2012