A police protection officer who was travelling with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been suspended from duties after leaving his gun on a plane – in what is the second similar incident in less than a year.
The officer left the weapon at London’s Heathrow Airport on Friday after going on a trip to the US with Mr Raab for talks about Brexit with senior officials.
It is believed to have been found by a cleaner.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: “We are aware of the incident on a flight into the UK on Friday, 18 September and we are taking this matter extremely seriously.
“The officer involved has since been removed from operational duties whilst an internal investigation into the circumstances is taking place.”
It comes just months after David Cameron’s bodyguard reportedly left his gun in an aeroplane lavatory in February this year.
The weapon was reportedly discovered by a passenger on a transatlantic flight, who handed it to flight attendants.
Passports belonging to Mr Cameron and the officer were also said to have been found alongside the weapon, believed to be a 9mm Glock 17 pistol.
Former Met chief superintendent Nick Aldworth defended Mr Raab’s bodyguard saying that “human error” does happen and there have been similar incidents in the past.
He told the BBC: “It has happened in the past and it happens sometimes without it necessarily coming into the public domain and that’s probably because the officer suddenly thinks ‘oh my goodness me I’ve left the gun in the police station canteen’ or wherever and [has] run back and got it.
“It happens because human beings are in the system and human beings operate under an enormous amount of stress sometimes, particularly when they are managing armed operations or in the middle of an armed operation.
“This appears to be an unfortunate lapse in concentration for which the officer will pay a price in their career, in as much as they have been removed from operational duties, which is something they probably love doing, and sadly for them, will no longer be able to do.”
Mr Raab visited Washington this week to speak with senior figures including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Brexit and Northern Ireland.
The talks come after senior US politicians told they will not back any free trade pact with the UK if Britain fails to uphold its commitments to Northern Ireland as part of Brexit.
Democratic Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, who also met with Mr Raab during his visit, warned: “If the UK violates its international agreements and Brexit undermines the Good Friday accord, there will be absolutely no chance of a US-UK trade agreement passing the Congress.”