Jetstar told to rehire flight attendant linked to murder

Jetstar told to rehire flight attendant linked to murder

Jetstar Airways has been ordered to return to duty a flight attendant accused of being involved in a murder overseas and who says she found a fake bomb on a domestic flight two years ago.

But the airline says it may cite security concerns to stop sacked attendant Monique Neeteson-Lemkes from taking to the skies with Jetstar again.

The self-styled whistleblower on the Australian airline industry says she found a suspect ''device'' in the toilet of a Jetstar plane as it flew from Sydney to Darwin in 2012. Now she is believed by South African prosecutors to be one of the masterminds behind a high-profile murder.

The airline sacked the attendant in December 2012 after deciding on medical advice that her ''psychological prognosis'' was too poor for her to continue working in a ''safety critical role'' on domestic flights. That same month, South African prosecutors issued an indictment against Ms Neeteson-Lemkes , alleging she masterminded the 1999 murder of mother-of-three Betty Ketani in a cold case drama that has gripped the African nation. The flight attendant, who has previously denied any wrongdoing in relation to the murder, could face extradition proceedings to her native South Africa as early as November.

Ms Neeteson-Lemkes did not respond on Wednesday to attempts to contact her through her lawyers and Jetstar did not respond before deadline to a series of questions. The sacking came more than a year after an incident on a flight from Sydney to Darwin in August 2011 when, according to evidence before the Fair Work Commission, Ms Neeteson-


Work Commission, Ms Neeteson-Lemkes discovered a device in the toilet of the plane that had ''every appearance of being a bomb'', according to commissioner Donna McKenna.

She lodged a workers' compensations claim for anxiety and depression exacerbated by what she claimed was the airlines' inadequate response to the incident, when the plane kept flying to its destination, without diverting or making an emergency landing.

But when she tried to return to work in September 2012, Jetstar demanded its own medical opinion and had Ms Neeteson-Lemkes examined by a psychiatrist and found psychologically unfit to return to the skies. She was sacked in December.

But commissioner McKenna has found the airline botched the sacking, that it was harsh, unreasonable and unjust and the attendant had not been afforded natural justice or procedural fairness.

The airline was ordered to return Ms Neeteson-Lemkes to her flight duties by September 6.

But Jetstar told the commission that it could seek another hearing where it would produce evidence from Qantas security on whether its employee could get another Aviation Security Identification Card after her old card was terminated when she was sacked.

Ms Neeteson-Lemkes was in the headlines in late 2011 when, styling herself as an industry whistleblower, she told a Senate aviation inquiry that Jetstar staff were overworked and that morale at the airline was low.

Her legal troubles in South Africa took a turn for the worst in July when three of six men on trial for the murder of Ms Ketani pleaded guilty and agreed to give evidence against their co-accused, including the Jetstar attendant.

The victim worked in a restaurant managed by Ms Neeteson-Lemkes and owned by her father. Ms Ketani was allegedly kidnapped and attacked after complaining about her wages. After the first attempt on her life failed, the young mother was abducted again from Johannesburg Hospital weeks later, tortured, murdered and buried under a backyard patio in a crime that remained in the cold case files for 13 years.

The case returns to court in Johannesburg in November.

Noel Towell is State Political Editor for The Age

Most Viewed in National