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UFO - Howden Moor





by David Clarke and Martin Jeffrey




The Aircrash Which Never Was


The Eye Witness Testimony


Tracked By Radar


The Sonic Booms


Space Debris


Military Denials - questions in the House


Theories and Context


Ghost Fliers


Drugs Drop


Covert Military Operation


Bolide Meteor Space Junk


Optical Illusion


Crashed UFO Conspiracy








It was a story which could have been lifted straight out of a plot from the X-Files TV series: An unidentified flying object hovering in the clear night sky; callers jamming police switchboards to report a light aircraft skimming rooftops on a collision course with the hills west of Sheffield; RAF jets screaming through the sky as if in pursuit of something...And finally, a deafening explosion which sent gamekeepers rushing from their isolated cottage on a Yorkshire moor.



Did - as some have claimed - a UFO crash into or explode above the Howden Moors, on the border between South Yorkshire and Derbyshire Peak District, shortly after 10pm..... on the night of Monday, March 24, 1997?


Has the evidence for this “crash” been covered up by the authorities ever since?


Is there a massive cover-up underway to hide the truth from the public?


Or was this “incident” simply the product of a series of unconnected events and coincidences including a military exercise and the misperception of natural and man-made aerial objects by a comet-sensitised public?

Whatever the source of the phenomena, it is clear that the authorities took the initial reports seriously. The emergency services mounted one of the region’s largest ever air and ground rescue operations in response to a suspected air disaster - an operation which involved almost 200 personnel and cost in excess of £50,000.  For 15 hours emergency services from four different counties, co-ordinated by South Yorkshire Police,  were involved in searching up to 50 square miles of the most barren Pennine moorland for wreckage from a suspected aircrash - a crash which we now know never happened.

This report aims to clear away the aura of mystery which has continued to surround these events, cutting through wild speculation to reveal the truth behind the Howden Moor Incident. In the process, the twists and turns of the investigation has led the author into the very core of the melting pot of belief and experience which gives birth to the UFO phenomena and provided a unique insight into the psychology behind those who promote beliefs in Extraterrestrial Visitors and conspiracy theories. For while the Howden Moor Incident was not initially UFO case, it has all the hallmarks of one and has been promoted as such more recently by those who today have become the self-styled proponents of modern belief in alien visitations.

It is a story which begins on a clear, cold  spring night in the Peak District National Park, a night when many necks were turned skywards in search of the spectacular Hale-Bopp comet which at that time was prominently visible in the night sky.

However, this particular night something else was stirring which would make this evening a very long one for the emergency services, and spark a mystery which remains a uncompleted jigsaw puzzle to this day....

The Aircrash Which Never Was...

This was how news of what was to become one of the most controversial incidents in British UFOlogy was first broken by the local newspaper the Sheffield Star on the morning of Wednesday, March 25, 1997:

“Emergency services from four counties were today involved in a massive operation to solve an X-Files style air crash riddle in South Yorkshire.

“The operation was launched after a suspected air crash and explosion were reported on Peak District moorland near Sheffield. Police treated the reports seriously because callers reporting the incident were so specific - even though air traffic authorities had no official reports of missing aircraft.”

The Howden Moor incident began shortly after 10pm..... that night, when the operations room at Ecclesfield Police Station in Sheffield began to receive emergency calls from people living in the area of Bolsterstone, an isolated village high on the moorland border between Sheffield and the Peak National Park. The first call came at 10.15 pm..... from two farmers near Bolsterstone who asked the control room staff if they had received any reports of aircraft coming down over the moors. They said they had seen a plane flying low and disappearing over the highest point on the western horizon, formed by the moors known as Featherbed Moss, followed by a “flash” and several plumes of smoke. Shortly afterwards further calls were received both by South Yorkshire and the Derbyshire forces, reporting “aircraft in distress” and another reporting “a plane having gone down west of the Midhope Moors area.” These circumstantial reports were enhanced by a report from Strines Forest by gamekeepers who heard a large explosion and reported a “large orange glow” visible on the horizon.

By 10.30 pm..... that night, with a number of consistent and reliable reports at hand, an alarmed police controller had called out 40 police officers and placed the county’s Fire and Rescue Service and Ambulance Service on full alert in anticipation of a possible disaster involving a light aircraft. The mAnner in which the events unfolded from that point onwards can be followed precisely via the Major Incident Log produced by South Yorkshire Police [an edited version of which appears as an appendix to this report], who co-ordinated the search and rescue operation which lasted until 2pm..... the following afternoon.

At 10.53 on March 24 Chief Inspector Christine Burbeary had taken command of the incident, and initial contact with Manchester Airport ascertained that no distress calls had been received or aircraft reported missing. Furthermore, nothing had been registered on the airport’s radar which covers a large segment of the northern Peak District. Staff in both Sheffield and Derbyshire were now placing urgent calls to both civilian and military airports who may have had traffic flying above the Peak District. However, the message that came back from everyone was loud and clear - “it’s not one of ours.”

By 11pm..... that night West Yorkshire Police’s helicopter had reached the moors near Bolsterstone and was beginning a large scale search of the area using its Night-Sun searchlight and hi-tech Thermal Imaging equipm.....ent to detect signs of a fire or wreckage. It was joined at midnight by an RAF Sea King helicopter from RAF Leconfield on the East Coast. Use of the Sea King had been authorised by a Flight Lieutenant at RAF Kinloss in Scotland, a base which co-ordinates airsea rescue operations around the coastline of north Britain. The police log provides evidence that staff at Kinloss ran checks on military radar but discovered nothing, but later checks with the British Geological Survey found evidence of a “sonic boom” coinciding with the initial reports from the Peak District moors.

Meanwhile on the ground, Fire and Rescue tenders from stations in Tankersley, Penistone, Stocksbridge and Hathersage were racing towards the moors, and staff at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital were reportedly warned to stand-by to receive possible survivors or casualties from the “aircrash.” The fire crews rendezvoused at the Strines Inn, a public house which stands in an isolated spot high on the moors, while others joined police at the Bar Dyke road junction, from where a track leads west onto the wild moors above the Derwent and Howden Reservoirs. However, with no clear information concerning where the “crash” was located, and the possibility that it could have occurred anywhere in a wild and inhospitable zone extending for more than 50 square miles, police and fire crews had no option but to call upon the Mountain rescue service for assistance.

By midnight dozens of volunteers from the seven mountain rescue teams in the Peak District were being contacted by phone, some roused from beds, others asked to leave their places of work and join the search operation. Sgt Mike Hope and a civilian, Mike France, the co-ordinator of the Peak District Mountain Rescue Service (PDMRS), established their headquarters at the service’s Hepshaw Farm base on Langsett Moor. The farm was later used as a rendezvous base for the Sea King, which landed there on several occasions during the course of the following 12 hours, picking up Mountain Rescue staff and equipm.....ent to help the search.

By the early hours of March 25 a total of 141 mountain rescue volunteers from all seven teams were out on foot searching the difficult and often treacherous terrain stretching from Broomhead Moor, west of Bolsterstone, out towards the vast and uninhabited tracts of peat bog north of the Howden Reservoir complex. Joining them were teams of police officers and dog teams from the Search and Rescue Dog Association. The MRS commanders split this large group of personnel into groups, each of whom were assigned sectors of the moors to search on foot with help from dog teams. This was a long and painstaking process but resulted in a thorough search which was able to rule out any chance of overlooking a crash site.

The West Yorkshire helicopter had by this time found no evidence to indicate an aircrash of any kind had actually taken place. However, calls were continuing to police stations both in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire reporting a low-flying aircraft, an explosion and a flash over the moors. One of these corroborating reports came in shortly after 1am from a police Special Constable who had seen what she thought was a light aircraft flying very low and apparently on a collision course with the moors while she was driving near Bolsterstone around 10pm...... Early the following morning, when police set up a special phone line for the public to report sightings, they were flooded with information from people who had seen low-flying aircraft and military jets across a wide area from Chesterfield in the south to Thurgoland, on the border between South and West Yorkshire.

Chief Inspector Burbeary said these later reports simply served to confirm the earlier information that a plane had actually gone down on the moors. Despite skepticism from her opposite number in the Derbyshire Police - who refused to order his officers to join a similar search operation - Chief Insp Burbeary decided to scale up the search operation in the early hours and called in additional mountain rescue volunteers. She said:

“My concern was that we could have about eight people from a crashed aircraft lying on the moor seriously injured. It was an exceedingly cold night and we had to find them straight away.”

By 7 am on March 25 the RAF, after consulting with the Civil Aviation Authority, authorised the setting-up of what it called a “Dangerous Flying Zone” with a ten-mile radius, centred upon the Howden Reservoir where the search was centred. As a result, Air Traffic Control staff at Manchester were notified and airliners stacking up at high altitude were warned of the flying restrictions below their flight corridors. The Danger Zone was established, as later admitted in Parliament, as a routine measure to allow the two helicopters to complete their search unhindered by both military and civilian aircraft, particularly TV camera crews. The Danger Zone was a temporary measure to allow the two helicopters to complete their sweep of the moors with the minimum of disturbance.

In the event, as dawn broke, the two helicopters made a further two thorough checks of the moors maintaining radio contact throughout with MRS volunteers on the ground, without finding anything. The Sea King returned to its base at Leconfield at 2pm....., as Chief Inspector Burbeary gave the order to scale down the operation. She admitted:

“We got nothing back from air traffic control, no reports of aircraft failing to return, and eventually, having looked at all the circumstances, the decision had to be made to call the search off. The conclusion at the end of the search had to be that no aircraft crashed on the moor.”

However, the experienced senior officer was forced to admit that there had been a number of genuine reports of “phenomena”, including a low-flying aircraft, a huge explosion in the sky, and smoke. Mike France, the Mountain Rescue co-ordinator, remained as baffled as the police. He said his teams - who knew the area initimately - had thoroughly searched up to 50 square miles of the moorland with help from the helicopters.

“There was no scouring to the moor, there were no bits of wreckage. There was no oil traces on the reservoirs,” he said.

Officially, South Yorkshire Police categorised this incident as “unexplained” but senior officers remain convinced that the truth about what really happened has still to be revealed. At the time, the closing entry in the Police Log suggested the incident had been caused by a series of unconnected events and concludes: “..enquiries reveal a combination of circumstances that would lead people to believe a plane might have crashed.”

Today the police continue to remain open-minded about the incident and have even considered the possibility that the Howden Moors event was triggered by a plane involved in a drugs drop, or was caused by the appearance of a phantom “ghost plane” which, according to local folklore, haunts the moors surrounding the Ladybower and Derwent reservoirs. Their most recent comment, prior to the screening of a BBC “Mysteries” documentary on the case in October 1997, was:

“No explanation was ever found and we remain open-minded about what was behind the sightings.”

Since that time a second TV documentary has appeared on the case, alongside a flurry of speculation linking it with UFOs and sinister Government cover-ups. The UFO mythology is littered with speculation about secret military retrievals of alleged crash-landed flying saucers, and believers are eager to seize upon any rumour which alleges such an event has occurred in Britain and abroad. To the police, emergency service and local people who took part in the events of March 24, 1997, the Howden Moors incident remains a baffling mystery, but one of mundane proportions, and none of them has ever seriously considered the involvement of Extraterrestrial visitors. However, the weeks which followed the incident saw an influx of what one landlord described as “fruitbats and assorted nutcases” who set out to search for evidence of UFOs and associated cover-ups. It was not long before rumours were circulating concerning mysterious burnt patches in fields, ‘Men in Black’, flying triangles, objects removed from the moors on low-loaders and unmarked helicopters. The most precise rumour concerned an alleged sighting of ‘body bags’ being pulled out of a reservoir and flown by the Sea King to a waiting ambulance. In this instance it soon became clear that the ‘body bags’ were simply equipm.....ent being transferred from the Sea King to the Mountain Rescue HQ at Hepshaw Farm during the search operation. The “ambulance” turned out to be the four-wheel drive rescue vehicle used by the Peak District Mountain Rescue Organisation which was present at the scene. Among the rumours was one which suggested that Yorkshire Water workers who had witnessed the above scene had been “told to keep quiet” in true cover-up fashion. However, this investigation quickly located the workers in question and they were only too keen to discuss what they remembered about the incident. They had been ordered to check up to three of the reservoirs in the Strines area for signs of oil or debris which may have resulted from a possible crash, but they claimed the search had been called off before lunchtime on March 25. It was at this point they said they had been told by the police that the RAF had admitted the incident had been caused by one of their jets on an night-time exercise, which had accelerated to supersonic speed, causing a flash and a bang which had been witnessed by a number of local people.

An official said: “The police told us to stand down as the RAF had admitted the flash and bang had been caused by a plane involved in a night-time exercise which had gone through the sound barrier. I got the impression from the police that they had been wasting their time and if they had known they would not have put as much effort into it [the search].”

This explanation is at odds with what both the Mountain Rescue co-ordinator and the senior police officer in charge of the operation claim they were told by the RAF at the time, namely that there was no military operation. However, it fits neatly with what has since been discovered, and suggests that someone is being economical with the truth. It should be noted, however, that at least one senior officer who took part in the 15 hour search, Inspector Jack Clarkson, remains convinced it was caused by a covert military operation. His views can be read in the Opinions section.


Monday, March 24, 1997 was a clear, cold spring evening with a full moon and many people from Sheffield and the neighbouring areas took advantage of the fine weather conditions to venture out onto the Peak District moors west of Sheffield to watch the comet Hale-Bopp which was at its brightest and most prominent in the night sky. The gazetteer which follows follows chronologically the events of that evening from dusk until midnight, using wherever possible direct quotations from witnesses transcribed from shorthand notes taken during face to face and telephone interviews.

Readers will note there appear to have been two separate groups of observations; the first seeming to describe a formation of low-flying military jets observed at intervals between 8.30 and 9.50 pm...... Then shortly after 10pm..... a single, low flying aircraft is seen moving west across the moors on the northwest outskirts of the city of Sheffield. It appears to crash and simultaneously a loud explision is heard. This was the event which triggered the search operation. From that point onwards, the appearance of the two rescue helicopters, the first of which reached the scene at 11pm....., adds to the confusion as witnesses including Sharon Aldridge and Dan Grayson quite clearly observed the West Yorkshire Police helicopter performing its search pattern and associated this with the “crashed airplane” scenario.

The influence of the media was also important in the generation of rumour, as the events received widespread coverage both in the local and national media, in newspapers and on TV and radio. This resulted in a flood of calls to the police from further witnesses who had sighted aircraft and other flying objects on the night of March 24 but had not deemed them out of the ordinary until they heard the news reports about the search for the downed plane on the radio the following morning.

Det Insp Christine Wallace, who collated more than 40 reports for the South Yorkshire force, told us later how these described mainly low-flying aircraft but also UFO type craft, the observations spanning several hours and originating from areas outside the zone of the search and rescue operation. A summary of these reports can be found in the Police Log, but only the most significant are discussed here.

[dusk]..... Derwent Valley, Derbyshire. Park Ranger Brian Jones hears “an horrendous noise” in the sky and sees a low-flying helicopter flying across the valley towards Glossop. It carries a red and a white light. The same helicopter was seen and heard by several other residents in the Ladybower/Bamford area but has not been identified.

7.40pm...... Sighting in police log from a Bryan Haslam of Keighley, West Yorkshire, who had seen an object in the sky while travelling from Sheffield station. He was in the Barnsley area when he saw “a triangle shaped object with lights all around it hovering...” The police log of the incident reads: “...[caller] does not think it was a plane. Thinks we are wasting our time.”

8.30pm..... Gavin Stewart, driving on the M62 in West Yorks sees “an aircraft with its lights on travelling at 1500 feet nose down at a rate of knots. The aeroplane disappeared over a ridge and he expected to see flames but saw nothing more.” He reported the sighting to South Yorkshire Police after hearing about the search for the crashed plane on the radio.

8.30pm..... Paul Bradley was outside the Little Chef restaurant on the A61 Chesterfield by-pass in Derbyshire when he saw a formation of three military jets on the horizon. He said the formation were flying northwest towards the Derbyshire moors. Later the same night, around 10.15pm....., he said he saw more military jet activity while in the Shiregreen area of Sheffield.

9.25pm..... Mr Rhodes of Ridgeway, near Mosborough, Sheffield: “On the night of the incident I was watching the sky for the comet. At 9.25 I saw a bright light travel from my right (Dronfield) to my left (Ridgeway). I know this was the time because every night I always stand outside at this time. I saw the light dip, then I heard what I thought was a bang. I thought nothing of it until I heard the news about the crashed plane. I don’t think my sighting had anything to do with the aeroplane as it was nowhere near Bolsterstone.It was mysterious but I think it can be explained as a meteorite. Since the time I reported it to the police I’ve been contacted by the BBC, alien magazines, UFO investigators and other assorted nutcases.

9.30pm..... Tony Moore and Paul Byson, watching the comet from the Shiregreen area of Sheffield, area of Sheffield, saw what they described as a formation of fighter jets flying directly above them in the direction of Derbyshire. A number of other witnesses in Sheffield and northeast Derbyshire reported similar sightings, including an entire football team in Dronfield. At around the same time, a radio journalist from Hallam FM reported hearing “a loud humming noise” from above his car while comet-watching on the Peak District moors. This lasted 2-3 seconds, faded away and then returned,at one point “resembling a bird flapping its wings.” Despite pointing a torch skywards he was unable to see anything above him. It was only after hearing of the search the following morning that he connected the two events.

9.55pm..... Series of sightings in the Dronfield/Chesterfield area of Derbyshire, of aircraft travelling in a north/northwest direction towards the Peak District including jet aircraft and at least one light aircraft.

Emma Maidenhead [pseudonym] at Dronfield heard two jet aircraft pass over her home just before 10pm....., and went upstairs to the bedroom where she heard “a low humming noise.” Then she saw what she described as a triangle fly across the street. She told investigator

Martin Jeffrey: “I saw a triangle with the corners cut off. There were two pink lights on the front and I saw blue lights all around it. The triangle was a wide as the street, it was really bright and just above the rooftops. It flew pretty slow heading for the moors.” Max Burns describes the object Emma saw as a “huge triangular object, 2-300ft across” and said it passed over her house at a height of 200ft. He said it had pink/cerise lights around the front and “an almost blinding electric blue light underneath.” The UFO made a humming noise like an “like wet powerlines/electrical substation.” She claimed the UFO lit up the whole street as bright as day. Less than a minute before this object disappeared towards the moors two more jet aircraft screamed overhead. Emma also claimed to have seen helicopters in

the sky and said: “It was like an air show..I have never seen as much air traffic in the sky at the same time.” Emma then rang UFOlogist Max Burns and the pair travelled in Emma’s car into Derbyshire, where they were stopped at the Ladybower Dam by a police patrol and saw helicopters searching the moors to the north.

Shortly before Emma’s sighting a retired RAF officer, John Brassington, heard two very low level fighter jets scream over his house in Dronfield, so low they shook the foundations. He was certain they were Tornado fighter jets. These aircraft were heard minutes after he had distinctly heard a single-engined light aircraft flying low and circling above the area. He was convinced the light aircraft was flying illegally as it was so unusual to hear one at that time of the night over a built up area. He said: “I think the RAF had the right to be in this area flying at night, but I think the light aircraft was on an illegal flight, that was why I phoned the police the following day when I heard about the search for the crashed plane. I can assure you that if the RAF say nothing was going on that night they are talking a load of rubbish. Those jets were so low they shook the foundations of my house.”

Shortly before 10pm..... an off-duty police sergeant at Edale in the Peak

District saw a formation of fighter jets pass overhead. He said it appeared one low-level jet was being pursued by a formation of Tornadoes flying in a V-formation behind it. The formation of jets was flying at low-level and appeared to the eye as a large triangular object in the sky.

10pm.....? An 81-year-old woman pensioner at Woodlands View, Stannington, on the outskirts of Sheffield, watching the comet from her bedroom window saw a long dark cigar shaped object flying in a westerly direction across the moors from Bradfield towards Strines and the Peak District. She said it was surrounded by an eerie “glow” as if it was on fire, and was “very low” in the sky, almost at rooftop level. Speaking afterwards, she said: “I was watching for the comet from my window which has a panoramic view over the moors when I saw what I first thought was a plane come over the top of the hills beyond High Bradfield. It went towards Strines in the west and was shaped liked a long cigar which looked as if it was on fire

because it glowed. I couldn’t make out any wings and it made no noise at all. The light just glowed, it didn’t flash, and it was very queer looking.” The pensioner reported the sighting to Hammerton Road police after hearing about the search. Police there said she was a clear-headed, reliable witness who was familiar with the night sky.

10-10.05pm..... Police special constable Marie-France Tattersfield was driving a car with her husband Steve, a light aircraft pilot. They were heading along Brightholmlee Lane near the hill village of Bolsterstone looking for a good viewpoint for comet Hale-Bopp.

Suddenly what looked like a large four-seater aircraft flew directly across their path, coming from the direction of Grenoside across the Morehall reservoir, heading west towards Broomhead Moor. They clearly saw lights on the wings, but could not identify what kind of plane it was - whether prop-driven or a jet. There were four to six windows on the side of the plane, all brightly lit. She said:

“It was a very clear night so we decided to go and have a look at the comet We left the house about 9.20 and decided to go towards Bolsterstone. It was then that we saw a light aircraft which was on my right. It was very unusual because all of its lights were on and it was very bright. We watched it for a while. It was very low and all the time it looked as if it was coming down.

“It was the weirdest thing I have ever seen. It was a big aeroplane and was well below the legal altitude for night flying, it must have been no higher than 500 feet.. All its windows were lit up which made it look even more odd as no light aircraft would fly blind at that time of night over these hills.” The couple carried on driving until they reached the top of the moors...”it was in front of us all the time with the lights still on and then it disappeared behind some tall confiers.” During this period Marie-France heard what she thought was a boom or bang in the area. The couple reported their sighting to Ecclesfield Police Station at 1 am the next morning, after they saw the lights of helicopters searching the moors near their home.

10.10pm..... A farmer and his mother at Edge End Farm, Bolsterstone, rang 999 after seeing what they thought was an aircrash. The police report describes how they saw “a low flying plane travelling in a west south westerly direction and apparently having come from the direction of Deepcar. Both he and his mother commented on the low level of the aircraft and its low speed. He was able to see clearly the planes’ navigation lights. A short while later he saw an orange glow followed by several plumes of smoke.” The plane disappeared in the direction of the moorland ridge formed by Featherbed Moss and Margery Hill where the search was later concentrated. Both witnesses later told police they could detect “a strong smell of burning” following the appearance of the orange glow. The pair were later interviewed further by police and provided further details. Press spokes- woman Gillian Radcliffe later told us how Mr Morton said the aircraft he saw was “flying so low he instinctively dipped his head as it passed over his head...he said he had lived here 30 years and had never seen anything like it before.”

10-10.15pm..... Farmer David Robinson was attending to his lambs at Windybank Farm, Upper Midhope, when he saw what he described as “a light aircraft” flying over the nearby reservoir from the direction of Stannington towards Langsett. He said: “It was lambing time and I left my house at 10pm....., as I looked towards my left I could hear a plane. Then it flew across me towards Midhope. I could not see any lights except for two red lights on each wing. The next day two ordinary policemen called and interviewed me. I see planes flying low all the time and thought the whole thing was a charade.”

10-10.15pm..... Midhope Moor, near Langsett. Possibly the most detailed observation of the “mystery aiircraft” was by gamekeeper John Littlewood. He was out on the moor in his four-wheel drive vehicle when he saw two red lights in the sky approaching from the direction of Stocksbridge. As he watched the lights approached and it became obvious they were attached to the wings of an aircraft. He said: “It was definitely a plane and it was a big one; it was like an old time plane but different to a Lancaster, and not a Hercules because I’ve seen these too. It came right over the top of me and I could see there were no lights on it like you usually see on aircraft, just two red ones. It was making a loud humming noise and it came from Stocksbridge straight over the top of me and disappeared towards Dunford Bridge and Woodhead. It was very long, slow and low, probably about 500 feet in altitude.It was a clear night and I could clearly see the outline and it was making quite a noise. I just thought ‘What the hell is that?’ and took it to be a military plane, but I could not understand why it had got just the two lights on its wings. The planes I regularly see have the usual flashing strobes but this one was different. Later when I got home I found my neighbours little girl at Upper Midhope saw the lights through the bay window of their house and had run out to tell her dad she thought she had seen ‘a flying saucer.’ It was only the next day when I heard that people had heard explosions and there had been a search that I thought any more about it.”

Mr Littlewood reported his sighting to Inspector Jack Clarkson at Deepcar police station some weeks later. His sighting does not appear on the police log of the incident.

10.06? pm..... Hollindale Cottage, Strines. Gamekeepers Mike and Barbara Ellison are watching TV when they hear “a terrific explosion” in the sky outside their home on the moors. Mrs Ellison said: “We had just sat down to watch the news and we heard an almighty bang to the extent that it cut out the noise of the TV; you could not hear anything else but the ringing. It was a a very loud “boom or bang”...We immediately got up and rushed out and proceeded up onto the moor to have a look and see if we could see anything. The explosion was so severe I expected to see carnage, aeroplane, fire. But there was nothing - just nothing there to find.” After an initial sweep of the moors, Mick Ellision phoned 999 to report the explosion; call logged by Sheffield Police incident room and adds confirmation to suspicion that a plane has gone down. Mr Ellision sets off in his range rover to search the moors and notes “an eerie red glow in the sky to the south.” He is joined by community PC Mick Hague, who also saw the glow. He believed it was caused by the cement works in the Hope Valley to the south and suggested the clear weather conditions had deceived witnesses into believing the plane they saw was close by when it could have been many miles away.

10.05-10.30 Peak Park Warden Hilary Ambrose spots a strange light on the moors as she drives eastwards over the Woodhead Pass towards her home in Penistone. As she arrived at Salters Brook Bridge at the top of the moors she said she became aware of a light on the moors to the south. Initially she thought it must be a fire, but when it was still visible after driving for a further mile she decided to stop her car at Fiddler’s Green. The light was still visible and appeared to be hovering at ground level in the area of Featherbed Moss or the Shepherd’s Meeting Stones on Howden Moor. The light was stationary and did not flash or project a beam, and appeared to be “bright white” in colour. Discounting fires, bright stars or planets,she thought the only other explanation could be someone on the moor with an extremely bright flashlight. When she heard about the search of the moors the next day she reported her sighting to the head warden and returned to the spot the following night with Glossop Rescue Team commander Phil Shaw. The timing of the observation suggests Mrs Ambrose could have seen the lights of Mick Ellison or PC Mick Hague’s landrover who had begun to search the moors west of Strines shortly after 10.10pm.....; but the timing rules out the lights of the search teams who did not reach the moors until just before 11pm......

10.30-11pm..... Sharon Aldridge and a friend called JoAnne, who were staying at the Strines Inn had decided to drive to Boot’s Folly which stands on a hill above the Strines Reservoir. to photograph the Hale-Bopp comet. While standing on the hill they heard what Sharon described as “a weird noise.”

She said: “It was very strange, the weirdest noise I have ever heard and very very loud and came from behind us. It was not a plane noise, and the nearest I could describe it was like a meteorite. The best way I can describe it was like a giant childrens’ windmill, very loud and longish. We both looked behind us but could not see anything. It was a freezing cold night and it was very frightening. As we began to walk back to the car a helicopter appeared and circled us with a flashlight on. When we got to the pub [Strines Inn] there were fire engines there. They said there had been reports of a light aircraft going down. I went up to them and described what we had seen and heard. It was odd because at first the fireman said a light aircraft had gone down and then later when I asked he said it was a jet. Later in the night I saw a plain clothes police car come up and the police questioned Jo the next day about what we had heard.”

Sharon added: “We heard rumours about ghost planes and smugglers but the noise we heard was not like a plane and there was no splash or anything. UFOs were never mentioned until Max came to the pub and started asking us about it.”

10.35pm..... Teenagers Leon Rockley and Alex Hardy film a low-flying light aircraft from their home in Doe Royd Crescent, Parson Cross, in north Sheffield. The pair were outside using a hand-held camcorder to film the Hale-Bopp comet when the plane appeared in the sky. “It was just a flashing light in the sky to the south at first and came nearer and nearer until you could hear the droning noise of its engines,” said Leon. “It was flying very low for the night time and was going towards Deepcar or Stocksbridge. It came towards us and you could see a clear white strobe light underneath, and and lights on the wings. Then it banked and turned and the lights looked as if they were in a triangular formation.” Police examined the footage but could not identify the plane and concluded that it did not take their inquiry any further.

Det Insp Christine Wallace said: “There’s no doubt it shows a fixed wing aircraft with lights on the wings which makes it look like a triangle when it turns. But we don’t know where it came from or where it went because we checked all possible sources including civilian and military airfields.” The timing of the observation, recorded at the end of the tape,rules out this aircraft as being responsible for the sightings 30 minutes earlier in the Bolsterstone/Howden area of the Peak District.

10.54pm..... The crew of a mobile Derbyshire Police traffic patrol car report seeing what they believed to be “a plume of smoke” rising into the air to the west of the Woodhead area while heading for the suspected crash zone (see entry no.32 in police log); similar unexplained smoke is spotted later near the Strines Inn and fire crews are asked to direct a spotlight in the direction from which the smoke appeared. The West Yorkshire Police helicopter (Y99) searches the area but finds nothing.

11.45pm.....? Businessman Dan Grayson, watching the horizon to the west from his

home in Stannington sees what he describes as “a bright red light

stationary in the sky” towards Glossop. “I thought it was Mars at first

but then it moved off and split into two. The two lights then flashed off

and disappeared. Shortly afterwards I saw a helicopter in the same area which had a number of lights on it; this was visible for about three or four minutes. I did not think it was anything strange at the time and after  wards I realised I must have seen the rescue helicopter.”

In Max Burn’s report on the incident Mr Grayson is described as having watched a huge triangular shaped UFO hovering silently for 15 minutes between 11.30 and 11.45 [while the search was on-going] at an altitude of 200ft, before it moved off while being shadowed by an “unmarked helicopter”. He is described as saying the object was “not of this world.” When asked in September 1998 if he had seen a triangular UFO Mr Grayson said unequivocably: “No I did not, and I have never claimed I had seen a triangular UFO.” The timing of the observation suggests this witness saw either the Sea King or the West Yorkshire Police helicopter, which at the time were both flying in the area he describes. The lights he observed were clearly those of the night-sun searchlights used by both machines.


Claims have been made that a UFO was tracked on radar at 9.55 pm..... that night by the Royal Signals based at RAF Linton-upon-Ouse in North Yorkshire. The claim, made by Max Burns, is based upon information allegedly supplied by an un-named radar operator who was a schoolfriend of a fellow DJ in Sheffield. Burns claimed this schoolfriend had excitedly called up his colleague on the morning of March 25 and told him he had “tracked a UFO on his radar screen at 9.55 for a ten minute period the previous night, at the end of which the UFO had “shot off the screen.” When pushed for more information this myserious radar operator allegedly said: “I am not allowed to discuss it and if I do I will be in breach of my national security oath.” This turn around was claimed to be a direct result of the military authorities imposing a wall of silence around the case.

Press inquiries with the public relations office at RAF Linton-upon-Ouse on March 25 had resulted in the following statement: “We are the only people in this area who would be flying above the region, and we were not practicing last night. We can confirm nothing was picked up on radar either.”

Checks with RAF Linton-upon-Ouse ascertained that the base is not part of the UK’s air defence network and its radar has a very limited radius for use in training rookie pilots. It certainly could not have been used to detect a UFO almost 100 miles away over the Peak District. In fact, the base public relations officer, Flight Lieutanant Philip Inman was able to provide evidence that the base, and its radar, was closed on the night of March 24, 1997. He pointed out the Royal Signals personnel are part of the British Army, and although some are attached to radar and communications centres operated by the RAF, this would be unlikely to be the case at Linton-upon-Ouse, which is a small base primarily used for training purposes. It is left to the reader to draw conclusions as to the reliability of the “evidence” provided by the mysterious “radar operator” who continues to remain anonymous.

The police log for the night of March 24 does in fact reveal that a check of radar tapes was in fact made by Lieut Stilwell at the RAF’s Air Sea Rescue Centre at RAF Kinloss at 12.04am on March 25. He told the police: “...we have consulted with all radar information for that particular area and surrounding area, [and] nothing significant is indicated from the readings around that particular time.”

Additionally, the radar operated by Air Traffic Control at Manchester which covers the region directly above the flightpath of the “UFO” was checked by controller Jeff Carter at 12.35 am and revealed “nothing in the area at the time.” Checks by Derbyshire Police with East Midlands Airport and RAF HQ at West Drayton revealed they had no reports of missing aircraft. As a result the Derbyshire force “stood down” at 12.25am and refused to the take the incident seriously as a possible aircrash,
















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