Grant Woodward: Good on you Ben for having a giggle in face of terror

Leeds lad's goofy grin offered a much-needed antidote to the grim daily bulletins of yet another unspeakable atrocity.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 31st March 2016, 7:28 am
Updated Thursday, 31st March 2016, 7:31 am
Ben Innes poses alongside his hijacker, Seif Eldin Mustafa.
Ben Innes poses alongside his hijacker, Seif Eldin Mustafa.

SUNGLASSES perched on his head and a cheesy grin plastered across his face, you would be forgiven for thinking Ben Innes was posing for a casual holiday snap.

Only the bloke he’s standing next to has just hijacked the plane he’s on. And around that bloke’s waist is a “suicide belt” which he claims will blow them all to kingdom come.

Of course, we now know the hijacker was, in the words of an Egyptian official, “an idiot, not a terrorist”.

Still, people are lining up to have a pop at Leeds lad Ben for supposedly endangering everyone on board with his stunt.

But did he really? Looking at the photo of weedy Seif Mustafa next to this strapping six-foot Yorkshireman, the sheer ridiculousness of the situation smacks you right between the eyes.

No doubt it seemed that way to Ben too, but he says he wanted to get a closer look at Mustafa’s “suicide belt” and thought asking for a photo was the ideal opportunity.

He rationalises this by concluding that if the bomb was real he’d have nothing to lose anyway, so he took a chance to get a closer look at it.

He was especially keen – or so he says now – to see if was fitted with a “dead man’s trigger” that would detonate the device if the hijacker was incapacitated.

But yes, there was a fair bit of bravado involved too. Why else would he have proudly pinged the picture to one of his mates and told him to put the news on?

By that point though he and his fellow hostages must have been twigging that this bloke – though seriously deluded – was not a crazed terrorist intent on blowing them to smithereens.

As for his explosive belt, it appeared to consist of a couple of toilet rolls, a bottle of suntan lotion and some random wiring.

I might be crediting Ben with more intelligence than he deserves but his photo also meant the authorities knew exactly what they were dealing with.

Plus making friends with the bomber might stop him or at least present a chance to tackle him.

As for that grin, well, trust a no-nonsense Yorkshireman to cut through the tension and, quite literally, laugh in the face of a terrifying situation.

The fact that he’s a health and safety inspector just adds another dollop of delicious irony to the whole episode.

Ben hasn’t demanded counselling and told the world how traumatised he is by the whole experience after escaping from that EgyptAir flight with his life. He’s laughing at the sheer lunacy of it all.

I was especially tickled by the quote he came out with once he’d sprinted across the tarmac to freedom.

“My mum was obviously frantic with worry and kept telling me not to do anything to draw attention to myself,” he said. “I didn’t know how to tell her I’d already done a selfie with the hijacker.’

Good on him, I say. After the terrible events in Brussels don’t we need someone to put a smile on our faces?

For my money Ben’s goofy grin and balls of steel offered a much-needed antidote to the grim daily bulletins of yet another unspeakable atrocity.

Yes, there are questions to be answered in this case. But not by Ben. I’d rather know exactly how hijacker Mustafa managed to get on the flight in the first place with his bizarre belt of tricks.

I couldn’t even get a sealed bottle of water on board a flight from Leeds-Bradford – so why was he able to strap on something that could pass for explosives?

And that’s the only real danger that could stem from Ben Innes and his hijacker “selfie” (which was actually taken by an air hostess so wasn’t a selfie at all).

His glorious refusal to take this whole thing even remotely seriously raises the worry that the authorities get away with doing the same.

Still, it’s good to see that some spirits will never be crushed by terrorists... or a lovelorn loser with toilet rolls strapped to his waist.

Johnson’s sick love letters at Armley

FROM my window here at YEP towers I can see disgraced football star Adam Johnson’s new home.

Armley nick is a bit of a step down from his blingy six-bed mansion up in Durham, but at least his loan spell at Elland Road a decade ago means he’s not on completely foreign ground.

The bad news is he’s set to be moved to the notorious HMP Frankland – where his fellow inmates will include child killers Levi Bellfield and Ian Huntley.

But it’s interesting to compare the six-year sentence handed to Johnson for sexual activity with a child with the treatment of another shamed footballer.

Back in 1999, former Arsenal and England midfielder Graham Rix admitted to having sex with a 15-year-old, claiming he thought she was older.

Working as assistant manager at Chelsea at the time, he was jailed for 12 months, served just six, and was promptly reinstated in his job.

After that he would manage Portsmouth, Oxford United and Hearts, and work at close pal Glenn Hoddle’s Soccer Academy in Spain.

Looking back, it’s a disgrace. Even though Rix insists he was hard done to.

Johnson’s sentence shows, mercifully, that these offences are now treated with the seriousness they warrant.

Still, he can comfort himself with the sackfuls of fan mail that apparently keep arriving at Armley for him – most of it from female admirers.

Proof indeed that there is no shortage of truly sick individuals out there.

Not sure Tom’s cut out for Bond

HAVING sat through six hours of The Night Manager, I’ve had plenty of time to weigh up Tom Hiddleston’s credentials.

Not least as the Missus has a habit of pausing some of his scenes – especially the ones where he’s lying in bed with just a sheet protecting his assets.

Still, as impressive as he was in the Beeb’s adaptation of Le Carre’s nerve-jangling novel, I’m not convinced he’s the next James Bond.

Yes, he’s got the requisite charm, good looks and buttoned-down Englishman act down to a fine art.

But personally I think the best Bonds had a bit more edge to them – that devil in the eyes that comes with being a cold-blooded assassin.

Still, he’s definitely hot property. A colleague revealed the other day that she’d watched Thor with her husband.

“His choice?” I suggested. “No, mine,” she replied a little sheepishly. “Honestly, I didn’t know it had that Tom Whatshisname in it.” Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

Follow Grant on Twitter @woodwardworld