Although it is little spoken of today, in March 1988 came a UFO sighting that not only had multiple witnesses but was confirmed on the radar systems at Gatwick Airport. Furthermore, motorway security CCTV cameras would capture almost forty minutes of the incident on video. It would appear to UFO investigators that video evidence of alien crafts was finally at hand.
However, the film was quickly classified, and perhaps would have remained secret had it not been for the leaking of several still frames from the footage by one of the UFO Investigators involved with the case. Just what did happen that evening over the M25 just outside of London? And did the incident share a connection to the several other UFO sightings of the early months of 1988?
It certainly seems that whatever did take place that evening in the south of England, it was of apparent importance to those in high-ranking positions. And, as we will examine shortly, continues to remain so even today.
“An Ominous Presence That Shouldn’t Have Been There!”
On the evening of 4th March 1988, at a little after 9 pm, call after call would come into the emergency switchboard operators regarding strange and mysterious lights hovering in the sky over the M25 motorway, near Reigate, London.
Three police officers would respond to one of the calls – that of Joe Clarke. When they did, far from expecting to discover anything of significance, one would ask upon arriving “where are the little green men?”. However, they would see the strange objects with their own eyes shortly after.
Clarke had first noticed the objects at just after 7pm after going into his garden. His wife and daughter had actually told him an hour previously of “two parallel lights approaching” but he paid little attention. He telephoned several relatives around different areas of London and they too could all see the strange anomalies.
He would go on to tell the 10th March edition of the Reigate and Redhill newspaper:
It was so strange. It was an ominous presence because it was something that should not have been there!
Clarke would estimate the object to be around 100 to 200 feet across and at an altitude of around 2,000 feet.
The police would begin to request reports from local airports, most notably, Heathrow and Gatwick. Unbelievably, radar controllers at the latter would claim they did indeed have “something strange on the screen we can’t account for”. Further requests for reports of other sightings would reveal that residents as far as Watford and Wimbledon had also made reports.
The Clarke family would continue to watch the strange objects for around an hour after the officers left. The mysterious glowing objects then calmly left. That the incident had multiple witnesses was not lost on UFO investigators. Nor was the video footage.
Refusal By Police To Release Footage Of UFOs!
In fact, according to reports quickly circulating in the local press at the time, the whole incident was indeed captured on the motorway security cameras. However, Hertfordshire police, while not denying the incident, were quick to state they would not release the footage to the public.
Chief Inspector, Chris Partridge would state to the 10th March edition of the Watford and West Herts Review newspaper that:
There were several bright lights seen in the sky which we have not been able to explan…Two light were moving and two were stationary. We had a police car in the area and we trained a camera into the sky. But the tapes will stay in our record. We have made every effort to find out what it was, but haven’t come up with anything. And it didn’t cause any difficulties in the area!
This would frustrate UFO investigators who had picked up on the case. It would also create an air of suspicion due to the refusal to release would could be evidence of intelligence behind the UFO phenomena.
According to Gordon Creighton, (at the time) editor of Flying Saucer Review magazine, the police and, in turn, the government have many such sightings but have “a policy” of withholding them from the public. As we will see shortly, several photographs would eventually find their way into the public arena. Albeit, through unofficial channels.
However, rather than go away, another witness would come forward with their account of the incident. And furthermore, other sightings would also later come to light.
The Carpenders Park Witness – “I Have Never Seen Anything Like It!”
In the Carpenders Park area of Watford, 54-year-old, Daphne Knapp, would report witnessing a “long object”, perhaps 20 meters, hovering in the sky on the evening of 4th March. What’s more, the incident occurred within the same time-frame as the one witnessed by the Clarke family.
She would recall how it had a low humming sound as it came closer to her
Knapp would also speak to the Watford and West Herts Review newspaper, in their 17th March edition:
(I) saw this shining green object coming down towards me just in front of the houses…It was flat-bottomed with two red lights on the rear end, there were not flashing like an aircraft’s lights. I have never seen anything like it and I wish I had had a film in my camera!
When UFO researchers went to interview Knapp, they would find her to be a largely credible witness. And what’s more, she would offer her information with accuracy and confidence. She would describe the craft as “boat-like”, even down to how it “sailed” through the air above her. Creighton would go on to state he found her statement to be “one of the most convincing” he had ever heard.
However, despite the two separate witnesses, both of whom gave detailed reports, not to mention the police presence at one of the sightings and the security camera footage to boot, the whole case was about to be dealt a blow in terms of further investigation.
An Effort To Shape Public Opinion Via The Local Press Media?
While the Watford and West Herts Review newspaper had treated the story with respect, not sensationalizing, but certainly not dismissing the accounts, another local newspaper, one perceived, rightly or wrongly to be better or more “senior” of the two main papers, the Watford Observer would immediately dismiss the claims as “pie in the sky”.
Some UFO researchers remain suspicious of just why their editors and/or owners were so apparently eager to take this stance. Even a quick look at their wording, according to some, is evidence of a downplaying of the incident.
For example, in one of their reports referring to the police video, they claimed that “the video which had captured the light” remained unreleased. Instead of three lights, or even several lights, it has now suddenly changed to a single light.
Ultimately, the same publication would less than a week later declare that the incident – again described as the light was “simply a planet – probably Venus”. According to them, the whole incident was done with and explained. Whether this angle taken by the newspaper was a purposeful one at the request of a third party, while pure speculation, is open to debate for some.
One such researcher, the aforementioned Gordon Creighton, wrote several letters to the newspaper pointing out that he not only had witnessed the video tape for himself, but he had several still-frames of them, and in short highlighting the inaccuracies of their reporting. They didn’t respond. You can see a close-up of one of those pictures below.
An “Impeccable Record” For “Obeying Instructions” On UFO Dismissal?
Perhaps Creighton is correct in his assertion of the shaping of public opinion about potential sightings. For example, and particularly if there is substantial UFO activity in the region in question, Creighton offers that it would be “interesting” to investigate the Watford Observer’s apparent “impeccable record” in their “obeying of instructions” and so playing down and dismissing UFO activity reports.
Creighton would go on to highlight a case that took place in the same area six years later in late-December 1993. According to the UFO investigator, that evening on 28th December, a “professional lady in the medical field” and her fiancé witnessed a large, spherical craft hovering in the air. In fact, it appeared to be directly above the NATO headquarters.
The couple would make several reports to the newspaper in question. However, not only did they not publish her account, they wouldn’t even do an investigation into the sighting.
They would, though, run a story shortly after her account about a “local couple who saw one of Richard Branson’s little airships” flying over Rickmansworth. And how they thought it was “a UFO”. Without even acknowledging the witnesses sighting, or her professional background (which would lend credibility to the incident), they managed to dismiss the incident to the point that any other residents who may have witnessed something strange that evening, will pay it no further attention.
This notion will likely border on the ridiculous for some. The power of local press, however, particularly at the time is further reaching than we might think. Particularly in the London boroughs and regions. There is certainly no proof of “arrangements” with unknown parties to take such a stance. It isn’t, however, that much of a stretch of the imagination to think it possible.
There were, however, too many witnesses to the incident for this account to remain completely buried away. Multiple people would contact such publications as Flying Saucer Review to report their accounts of the incident.
Through these accounts, a timeline would show that after hovering close to Gatwick Airport for several hours, the lights (numbers vary with sightings reporting between three and six lights) calmly moving away in the direction of Watford. This would match the account of Daphne Knapp of the “boat-like” craft traveling over her.
The story would soon find its way into the Surrey Mirror Reigate and Redhill under the headline:
MYSTERY IN THE SKY – UFO SIGHTING CONFIRMED BY GATWICK RADAR!
However, almost a decade later, Creighton would perform a review of sorts of the case. He would make some remarkable if chilling discoveries. For example, the writer of the Surrey Mirror article (Christine Milne) had according to the paper when Creighton attempted to speak with her “left them years ago”. And they had “no idea where she is now”.
Perhaps even stranger, he would discover much the same when he made attempts to track down Joe Clarke. Clarke was caretaker at East Surrey College School of Art at the time of the sighting. However, the college would respond simply by stating “he no longer worked for them”. They would, though, promise to forward on his details to their former employee.
Several months went by, finally prompting Creighton to send a follow-up letter to the principal of the college. Again, a wait of several months would follow. Until finally, one morning, a letter from the college arrived with the UFO investigator.
Despite their initial statement, the college claimed “they can find no trace of Mr. Joe Clarke ever having been employed by East Surrey College”.
Why The Need To Cover-Up A “Non-Sighting” Incident?
Given the above, it would certainly appear that the Reigate sighting is important. It also appears the incident was downplayed and even ignored as much as possible by official channels. This, to some, raised suspicions of some kind of inside knowledge.
Might these craft be of a terrestrial origin in the form of top-secret military aircraft? Would that, for example, explain the secrecy? Or is it more likely, if this was the case, that such channels would simply state it was military concern?
So, if it isn’t a military aircraft, are we then to assume that the craft was extraterrestrial in origin? And if so, should we accept that the police are also aware of this? Are they perhaps under instruction to dismiss such cases for fear of causing public panic? Or might there be more involvement between such authorities and these mysterious visitors than most of us dare even imagine?
It might be easy, despite the multiple witnesses and even the radar confirmation, to simply dismiss the incident as a strange, albeit unexplained anomaly. If, that is, it wasn’t for several other similar sightings in the United Kingdom throughout the early months of 1988.
Other Early-1988 Sightings With Police Witnesses
One of the first sightings would unfold (relatively) nearby. In the district of Kensington shortly before midnight on the 2nd January. A young girl claimed to see a strange object hovering over the family’s garden. A report to police would result in an officer attending the property. Much like the incident in March, the officer would witness the object for himself.
So shocked was the officer he would request back-up to also view the sighting. In total, seven more police officers would arrive at the Kensington home. And all would see the strange object. The sighting appeared in both regional and national newspapers.
At the end of the month on the 31st January, a police officer would witness a “bright stationary UFO” hovering over Manchester Airport just after 6 am. Less than a week later on 6th February, following a report from the public, five police officers would witness a “green, yellow, and blue” flashing UFO hovering over Telford town center.
Just after 9 pm on the 16th February, two police officers would even go on the record. They would witness a strange object in the skies over Staffordshire. Stuart Griffiths and Michael Powell would report the sighting to their superiors. Who, in turn, would report to the Ministry of Defense.
Griffiths would state about the incident:
There were red and green lights all around its circumference. Which were either flashing on and off, or the whole thing was spinning!
Incidentally, and a detail that surfaces in multiple close encounter UFO sightings, was that Griffiths would also state the strange craft was completely silent. Furthermore, on the same evening and at the same time, two other police officers, Steve Goodwin and Roger Clarke, would also witness what would appear to be the same object.
Sightings Further North During The Same Period!
The London skies would certainly appear to take the brunt of the sightings during the first few months of 1988. However, several sightings, also with police as the main witnesses, would occur further north around Manchester, Sheffield, and Stockport.
For example, in January, police officers, David Tingle and Chris Thompson were driving back from patrols around the Derbyshire Peak District. It was just before midnight when the two officers witnessed a bright object in the night skies for around thirty seconds. It would soon come to light that several members of the public would also witness the glowing craft.
Several weeks later in early-February, in the Ecclesfield area of Sheffield, two police officers would witness a “bright red V-shaped object” cut through the night skies above. One of the officers, Susan Jackson, would exit her police vehicle in order to view the strange craft clearer. She would state:
I had the car engine running but could still hear it whirring above. It had rows and rows of flashing red lights all around it!
At a different location, and aware of the sighting due to the police radio networks, another officer, John Boam, would also witness the same-shaped object. It would hover for thirty seconds before moving away from his location.
Around the same time as the Ecclesfield sighting, on the 1st February, at just after 6 am, police officers, Ian Walmsley and Chris Evans, witnessed a “spinning UFO” hovering over Cheadle in Stockport. The officers would report the sighting to the Manchester Police Headquarters. However, the response was it was merely a “Tristar aircraft”. The officers, at least privately, would reject this explanation. They would state they had “never seen anything like it before”.
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