The case of a ‘human rights lawyer’ who was jailed for racially abusing cabin crew on an Air India flight between Mumbai and London last year has taken a tragic turn after the body of the perpetrator was found at the bottom of a set of cliffs called Beachy Head over the weekend. Simone Burns, 50, was released early from prison just days before apparently killing herself after serving just over a month and a half of a six-month prison sentence.
Videos of Burns’ racist tirade went viral last November after fellow passengers on the 9-hour flight between Mumbai and London Heathrow filmed her shouting, screaming and even spitting at the cabin crew. The prolonged altercation started when Burns, who was seated in Business Class, was denied more wine because she was already drunk and acting erratically.
A drunk business class passenger went on a rant onboard a London-bound Air India flight after the crew refused to serve her any more alcohol. She is the same human activists lawyer fighting for Rohingyas pic.twitter.com/atISgNRETP
— KavitaM 🇮🇳 (@Kavita_M57) 14 November 2018
Drunk Irish business class passenger onboard an Air India Mumbai- London flight AI-131 verbally abused the crew with racist comment on India and Asian people after she was refused another glass of wine.The woman was arrested upon arrival at London. @BDUTT pic.twitter.com/GT9vraxxx1
— Anirban Bhattacharya (@anirban23456) 14 November 2018
Both the cabin crew and other passengers did exceptionally well to deal with Burns’ behaviour as she stormed around the cabin and prevented crew from doing their jobs. At one point, Burns locked herself in a lavatory and smoked a cigarette because she had been refused any more alcohol.
During the tirade, Burns called one flight attendant an “Indian fucking money-grabbing bastard…”, who she threatened to “turn inside out”.
On arrival at Heathrow, the Belfast born lawyer was arrested by police on suspicion of racially aggravated public order, common assault and being “drunk and disorderly”. In April, Burns was sentenced to a six-month prison sentence at Isleworth Crown Court after admitting to being drunk on an aircraft but claiming to have no recollection of what happened.
Her defence team said she had acted out of character and her behaviour was triggered by anxiety because she was likely to miss the funeral of her uncle who had recently passed away.
Confirming the death, Sussex Police said the body had been identified and that next of kin had already been informed. A coroner will now open a case to determine the cause of death, although Beachy Head is known to be a popular spot for suicide attempts. Burns had previously said her “world had fallen apart” after the air rage incident.
If you need to talk, help is available. In the U.K., the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.