Vet nurse escapes suspension over ‘drunk and manic’ behaviour on flight
A veterinary nurse who screamed and swore at fellow passengers on a flight and had to be restrained by her friends has escaped being suspended or struck off.
A VN Disciplinary Committee heard 29-year-old Katherine Heyes had drank a bottle of vodka with two friends on a flight to Turkey from Manchester for an all-girls holiday in May 2019 and was described by a fellow passenger as “bordering on manic”.
Ms Heyes had also been travelling with a three-year-old child who she shouted and swore at ‘”aggressively”, causing the child to become upset and cry, the hearing was told.
The aircraft’s captain considered diverting the flight because of the risk Ms Heyes caused to safety.
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons disciplinary committee heard that as a result the veterinary nurse was sentenced to a Community Order in July 2020 consisting of 80 hours unpaid work, and had to pay a victim surcharge of £85 and costs of £250.
But despite the committee ruling that Ms Heyes had been guilty of disgraceful conduct, she has escaped being struck off or suspended. The hearing was told she had only “one pint of lager” before boarding the flight at Manchester Airport.
Ms Heyes said that while on the flight she drank some vodka that had been poured into a cup for her by a friend. The panel heard a transcript from the sentencing hearing which described how during the flight, Ms Heyes and one of her friends were seen going to the lavatory with a large beach bag, which cabin crew suspected contained alcohol.
Later on in the flight, cabin crew found Ms Heyes was slurring her words to the extent that the senior cabin manager was unable to understand what she was saying, the panel heard. Cabin crew found an’ empty bottle of vodka near the nurse’s feet.
Another passenger became particularly concerned about the way Ms Heyes was behaving towards the child who was with her on the flight and alerted the cabin crew, the hearing was told. The cabin crew then decided to take the child to the back of the aeroplane, and Ms Heyes’ behaviour “deteriorated,”.
A fellow passenger said: “One minute she had her head in her hands and was crying; the next minute she was flailing her arms around and was laughing. This went on for some time”.
A ‘completely out of it’ Ms Heyes started saying she wanted to get off the aircraft and that she wanted the child to come back and sit with her, the hearing was told. She was ‘fixated’ on the senior manager and had to be physically restrained by her friends. A ‘chaotic’ atmosphere ensued with passengers shouting that they wanted the plane to be diverted so Ms Heyes could be removed from the flight, the committee heard.
The captain decided against diverting the flight because they were only 40 minutes from their destination. Turkish police met the flight when it arrived but Ms Heyes was not detained.
Ms Heyes was interviewed by police on her return to the UK and told them she had become angry at the suggestion she had not been fit to look after the child. Ms Heyes told the committee she was “ashamed and remorseful” about the events which had led to her conviction.
The panel said that Ms Heyes’ behaviour had “brought the profession into disrepute”, concluding: “Whilst the charge was not so serious as to require suspension or removal from the register, the Committee decided it is necessary to issue a formal warning to Ms Heyes as to her future conduct.”