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UK: 63-year-old arrested for aiming flashlight (torch)

Torben Merriott, 63, was arrested for shining a flashlight (torch) at an RAF Apache helicopter, after being awakened at 1 am by two gunships which were on a military exercise. The arrest for was "suspicion of endangering an aircraft by dazzling the pilot." He was held for nine hours before being bailed out of jail. The charge carries a maximum sentence of two years in jail.

Merriott said the gunships sounded like an "earthquake" and were "10 feet above my garden" in his farmhouse near Eye, Suffolk. News reports said he used the flashlight to identify the aircraft, during the September 18 2009 incident.

The flashlight was readily available and cost £8.45 (US $13.86). Merriott owns a theatrical lighting firm that has lit flying helicopters at a Buckingham Palace event. He insists he did not put the aircraft at risk: "Don't tell the Taliban that all they need is an eight-quid torch to bring down multi-million-pound high-tech gunships."

Full story, with photo of Merriott and a torch, from the Daily Mail.

UPDATE: Charges were dropped two days after the incident. Merriott said he was considering making an official complaint:
"I cannot help feeling that to keep me locked up for nine hours is pretty vindictive, when I was happy to make a statement. It was heavy handed and I think they were trying to teach me a lesson."

Update from