The Ladybower Case - March 24th 1997

Strange goings on at the Peak District.


I first became aware of this particular incident on the afternoon of Thursday the 27th of March 1997. I received a telephone call drom a Mr. Geoff Green, reporter for the Manchester Evening News regarding an incident that had taken place on Monday the 24th of March in the vicinity of Ladybower reservoir, in the Peak District. He informed me that there had been several witnesses to a probable aircraft in trouble or a downed aircraft in the area and a full scale search and rescue operation was swiftly deployed. Considering the aid of mountain rescue officers, the local police and Royal Air Force personnel, no aircraft was said to have been located.


Mr. Green had conducted some hours of research regarding the area of Ladybower and could only accumilate information regarding phantom aircraft that had allegedly been witnessed in the same vicinity throughout the years. The phenomenon of phantom aircraft seem to be a form of apparitions and investigative procedures are usually the same, however these types of apparitions are usually only a visual phenomenon. The sound often associated with phantom aircraft is often abscent. Is it true to state that the vicinity is steeped in history regarding World War II bombers, which once flew this area during the operation known as the Bouncing Bomb or the (Dambuster Run). This was an experimental bomb that was deployed some 60 feet above the water. Ladybower played a major part in the testing of such military programs. Most of the crashes were due to bad visibility. Low clous and high ground is every pilots nightmare. A number of more recent crashes have also taken place throughout the area. Not only is this area known for its ghostly apparitions of silent bombers but on occasion apparitions of pilots themselves are reported. The area is littered with crash sites and most if not all are well illustrated in books which can be obtained from any of the local visitor centers.


Due to the fact that no aircraft had been found after an in depth search and rescue had been carried out, Mr. Green presumed that the alleged sightins of an aircraft in distress was an apparition and not a physical object. However, to conduct such an in depth search of this large area and it to be swiftly put into operation; I presumed that maybe something was detected on radar, such as a deflection of some kind that may have resembled a physical object. But never the less this immense search and rescue was put into operation simply on the statement of witnesses. I find this a little hard to believe. Manchester International Airport was later contracted in hope of obtaining some information regarding the search and rescue. Were were told they were unaware of any activity in the area of the Peak District and if there had been, they would certainly known about it...


Investigator Steve Yarwood was able to obtain some information from the internet. Graham Birdsall of UFO Magazine had put an article together concerning the goings on in the area of the Peak District. He wrote:


"This is a news breaking story which has been developing all day (Tuesday 25th of March). Last night between 9.30pm and 9.50pm, three independent reports were received by South Yorkshire Police of an aircraft in trouble. One member of the public told police officers that they heard a loud explosion. This was close to the Ladybower Reservoir on the A57 Snake Pass Road. The police press office have been inundated with telephone calls all day following media announcements as early as 6.15am. Seven mountain rescue teams were called out from South Yorkshire and Derbyshire. No aircraft has been reported missing and no wreckage found. The search has now been called off. Members of the public observed two Sea King helicopters hovering over the area and there were reports of at least six military aircraft in the region. According to one witness, these were in pursuit of an Unidentified Flying Object. Around this time, dozens of eye witnesses in Wigan, Lancashire, (most out to observe the Hale Bopp comet) observed a huge flying triangle overhead. At Baildon Moor, Shipley, West Yorkshire, a flight of military jets were seen in close formation heading West over the Pennines into Lancashire. The telephones have not stopped ringing all day. Teams are makings their way to the area this evening (Tuesday 25th of March) to liaise with other researchers to acquire more information".


It was obvious by this time several organisations had heard about the activities in the area of Ladybower Reservoir and possibly some of the UFO reported incidents. This was to shed a new light on the investigation. Were we investigating the phenomenon of phantom aircraft, a UFO or something that has a more mundane explanation? This investigation was starting to become more intrguing by the day.


Andy Roberts from the British UFO Research Association (BUFORA) was also to join the investigation. Andy stated:


"Despite almost two days of searching remote moorland, police and mountain rescue services found nothing, despite over fifty people having now reported what appeared to be either a plane in trouble, a large white light, an explosion and a huge glow. The event took place at approximately 10.06pm on Monday 24th of March 1997, during the evening and within minutes the services were out searching for a presumed crashed plane. Since Monday other witnesses have reported seeing a UFO at this exact time and in the same area, whilst others have stuck to the more traditional 'plane or fire' theory. An amateur video was taken at allegedly this time of what detectives say 'is' a small fixed wing aircraft in trouble. This is to be analysed and screened on local TV news sometime over the next couple of days. The local press have been having a field day and linking the incident to sightings of 'Ghost World War II bombers' which have been seen in the area on numerous occasions. David Clarke from the Sheffield Star newspaper has been liaising closely with police and mountain rescue leaders, who say that 'nothing' was legitimately in the skies over the North Peak District at that time. Obviously if this was some secret project or military activity of some sort, we would not know anyway. The police admit to being baffled and are considering all and any possibilities, just as they did in the 1970s in this area, when it was plagued by a 'Phantom Helicopter' which needless to say was never identified. There were also reports of a sonic boom being heard. This was allegedly recoreded in Leeds and then later analysed by the Seismic Unit at Edinburgh University and low and behold, the recording was at 10.06pm which coincidently is the exact time the incident took place at Ladybower. The scientific team from the Seismic Unit went on to say that there were three possibilities to what had caused the sonic boom."


1. Concord passing over.

2. A Bolide Meteor.

3. A Military aircraft in the area.


"Concord can certainly be ruled out. A Bolide Meteor would be a likely cause. It is illegal to perform a sonic boom over built up areas unless the aircraft was in some form of distress. Ifthat were the case, we should of had a statement from the Royal Air Force. A military aircraft in the area seems like a good description of what many people claimed to have seen and probably misinterpreted. This however, does not explain the amateur video of a supposed aircraft in trouble. The Royal Astronomical Society's Bolide / Meteor expert, Howard Miles, was of the opinion that it could well have been a Bolide but he had no reports from that evening. However, just because there were no reports doesn't necessarily mean that one hadn't occurred. I have also spoke to another witness who observed a hovering light projecting beams of light down onto Majorie Hill (the apparent center of the sighting area) at approximately the same time and from a different direction to most of the Sheffield witnesses. This 'appears' to fix the phenomenon firmly in one spot. There are numerous witnesses to interview over the coming weeks and I predict this story will be one of the biggest in the UK this year. It has many parallels with the Berwyn Mountains (Wales) event of 1974 which has suddenly attained fame in this country as a crash retrieval but which seems to have prosaic orgins. This case may well be similar. It should be borne in mind that on the night of the event, it was crystal clear (itself a rarity in those parts) and a great many people were out looking at the skies in a Hale Bopp sensitized state. Thinking with my psychosocial hat on, it could all be construed as a Bolide Meteor and other astronomical events (such as the Virginids meteors which have been out in force) which have been misperceived and is slowly but surely turning into a UFO flap. On the other hand it could be something far stranger. Finally, I have recently received reports that people also witnessed triangular UFOs in the area at the same time".


Information has also been obtained stating that the desk sergeant of South Yorkshire police station on the night in question received three telephone calls from people complaining of a low flying object over Sheffield. Also that a thermographically equipped helicopter was involved in the search and rescue operation, looking for a wreckage of a possible downed aircraft, but found nothing.


Reports about a crash in the region of the Midhope Valley have so far been unfounded, with the general trail of investigation leading back to a gentleman by the name of Martin Jeffrey's, who claims to have photographs of a 'crash site'. This is the same man that claims that he is being harassed by the security forces from the area of the crash. 'Hunderds of soldiers', if rumour be true. The photographs allegedly show an area of grass that had 'turned blue' in colour by the UFO. The following day Andy Roberts from BUFORA went on to say:


"The video of an aircraft I mentioned earlier has now been viewed and it does in fact depict an aircraft - but! At the end of the section you can clearly hear one of the filmers ask what time is it, and is told 10.30pm which puts it around 20 minutes after the original bangs and flashes".


Investigator and aircraft enthusiast Alan Smith informed me that many small fixed wing aircraft do in fact perform test flights in that area. This is so that they can obtain their pilots licence and that they sometimes purposely stall the engine and restart it again. This he states is part of the test and all pilots nned to know how to handle such a situation. Could it have been a small fixed winged aircraft witnesses saw and thought was in distress? I doubt it. Most of the residents would of certainly been aware of these types of pilot tests in the area. What intrigues me is, 'what led them to believe that they had witnessed a UFO'.


On March 31st, investigator Alan Smith telephoned RAF Valley to try and obtain confirmation of a search and rescue operation with military involvement. Alan was told that they new nothing of a search and rescue operation nor any military involvement, however, he was told that he may be able to obtain more information if he rings back on Tuesday, due to most of the staff being currently on leave. Alan agreed but come Tuesday he was told the same thing... that they had no knowledge of a search and rescue nor any military involvement. Investigator Garath Jones contacted David Clarke from the Sheffield Star newspaper to see if he could shed any light on the incident. David was not very helpful, however he did give Garath the telephone number of the infamous Martin Jeffrey's. Later that day, Gerald Greeves, reporter for the Daily Express telephoned me to obtain information about alleged sightings of World War II bombers in the area of the Peak District. I agreed to assist even though I knew that there may be a rather different explanation in regards to what really went on.


The article the Daily Express ran was called 'Ghost Planes'. This went on to give mention of old crash sites and local tours provided. There was also mention of a well known sighting of a Phantom Bobmer by Tony Ingle who was walking his dog at the time of the incident. Mr. Ingle stated that at the time of his sighting there was an absence of sound. He also gave mention to his dog and that it will no longer go down that particular road since that day. What I was surprised about, was that this particular article did not shed any light on the incident that took place near Ladybower.


Manchester International Airport was contacted and again we were told that they knew nothing of the search and rescue operation in the area of the Peak District nor knew of any military involvement. They claimed that if there were any military involvement then they would have certainly known about it. If any aircraft were in fact in the location of the Peak District that night, surely Manchester Internation Airports radar system would have picked them up.


I decided to give Martin Jeffrey's a call regarding what went on up near Labybower and to ask him about what he had experienced and photographed. This is what Jeffrey's had to say:


"I was the first one on the case and I was there when the military were in the area. I've been in touch with Graham Birdsall from UFO Magazine and the photographs are currently being analysed. I believe that they may be appearing in UFO Reality (magazine). You won't get confirmation from anyone about the search and rescue I've tried that one myself, know one's saying anything. It's a waste of time. This case is a lot bigger than you think, there's been a lot of activity leading up to the big one. Some even believe that this may be the next 'Roswell'. There's a lot to it. I have been investigating this for some time now. I will also tell you that the military aircraft came from RAF Waddington and that Monday night (24th of March) there was an indian man stood on the A57 Snake Pass Road which is next to Ladybower Reservoir covered in what seemed to be Diesel Fuel but whoever it was they never found him. He was said to be flagging people down in a panic. This could be another clue but I'm not too sure yet. I have been in touch with the local police and found out that one UFO report came from an officer himself, I believe that this one was a simple case of misidentification. He was looking at a burn off from an industrial facility, it was even in the opposite direction, so his account doesn't matter. I will let you know more when I have conducted more investigating".


During the Investigation I visited Ladybower a number of times and conducted a few interviews. I even discussed the incident with local fishermen and the owner of a local mountain bike rental store which is situated next door to the visitors store at Ladybower. He said:


"Yes' a search and rescue operation did in fact tale place, he saw it himself along with others, but as far as he knows, nothing was found. As for light aircraft being in the area, that's nothing new, they fly up and down here all the time. I have on occasion seen military aircraft fly down here but it's not all that often".


All in all, the gentleman was quite helpful. Also a couple of fishmen had witnessed four large 'prop jobs' flying in formation down Ladybower about half an hour before I had arrived. These were described as Hercules Transporters. Apparently they were flying about 400 feet above the reservoir heading in towards Manchester. Again this could not be confirmed by Manchester International Airport. It looked to me that Manchester International Airport were not being completely honest...


I had also taken a number of photographs in the area and noted all activity in the vicinity. The only thing that springs to mind is that three people, possibly from the forestry commision were putting out small fires that had spread up a nearby hill side. It was not established what had caused the fires in the first place. On April 2nd 1997 South Yorkshire Police were contacted again in hope of obtaining more information in regards the activity in the area. I was immediately put through to the headquarters and then later put through to the operations room where I was told that they did not know anything of a search and rescue operation nor did they know of any military activity in the area. However, there last statement came as a surprise... They had not received any UFO reports or aircraft being seen to be in trouble. I then contacted Glossop police station and was told by the desk sergeant that they had heard of some UFO activity, however it would be best to contact South Yorkshire Police regarding the matter as they can tell you more about them. I informed the desk sergeant that I had already tried this and they had told me they knew nothing). The desk sergeant replied "They must be playing silent Sam".


Investigator Steve Yarwood informed me that he had been in touch with the RSPCA regarding animal injuries or death in the area of the Peak District. None had been reported. It was not until April 4th that we managed to get confirmation of the search and rescue operation and that they had in fact been a military involvement. This was to be found in the pages of the RAF Times, a newspaper that is only distributed around military facilities. The article read:


"Crash mystery baffle emergency services, The incident occurred on Monday 24th 1997 in the remote moorland of the North Yorkshire Moors. Witnesses state hearing a crash or explosion. Over 150 personnel conducted a search and rescue operation. After 24 hours of finding nothing, the search was called off. Sea King helicopters were used from the 202 Squadron at RAF Lakenfield".


How uncanny, the RAF state that the search and rescue operation was conducted in the North Yorkshire Moors. On hearing this I contacted North Yorkshire Police and mountain rescue services. Guess What! They both said that they were not involved and that the incident happened in the Peak District. Also, they advised us to contact someone in the area it happened. They were aware of the operation but it was not their area to cover. Finally they finished off by saying, "Maybe You Should Contact........(wait for it).........South Yorkshire Police.


If an aircraft had come down over the North Yorkshire Moors, the West Midlands radar would have certainly picked it up. Guess What!... West Midlands didn't know anything because I rang them and asked. Two letters have now been sent to the National Aeronautics Technical Services (NATS) which use to be the Civil Aviation Authority and still no reply. We asked them for information or confirmation of the activities that took place in the vicinity of Ladybower. Their response never came... A letter was also sent to the Ministry of Defence regarding UFO reports in the vicinity of Ladybower. I letter back from the MOD confirmed that they had not received any UFO reports from the particular area at the time stated.


Even though we obtained confirmation from a none public source we still have a mystery in regards to what actually took place. The residents believe something unusual happened. Did an aircraft come down in the vicinity? Was it a light aircraft or a military jet? or was is a Bolide Meteor?


So, to begin with Graham Birdsall clearly stated that South Yorkshire Police did in fact receive three independent reports of an aircraft in trouble or distress, contrary to this statement, South Yorkshire Police deny any knowledge regarding this matter. Also, there has been difficulty trying to obtain where this activity exactly took place. As for now there has been mention to LadyBower Reservoir, Midhope Valley, Majorie Hill, Hope Forest and wait for it.... North Yorkshire Moors. Several times it has also been mentioned that one witness heard an explosion, witnessed military jets pursuing a UFO, saw lights beaming down to the ground and so on... When does one witnesses statement constitute such an operation. The police press office was said to have received telephone calls regarding this matter, some as early as 6.15am. In fact the word 'inundated' was used. Contrary to this statement, South Yorkshire Police headquarters know nothing of these incidents.


There has also been mention that no aircraft nor wreckage was found. In order for a wreckage to be found one must first establish that an aircraft is missing. The area in question is no doubt under the flight jurisdiction of Manchester International Airport and they can't even give confirmation of the search and rescue operation which aparently involved aircraft. There havec been mention of people seeing two Sea King helicopters in use in the area of Ladybower, however I would find it more interesting to find out who was in fact receiving the reports. Going back to when I mentioned the military pursuit of a UFO. We would all like to think it may have been a UFO 'chase and shoot case', however, one little thing seems to be a miss... Evidence! We had been told that it was not unusual to see military aircraft in the vicinity of the Peak District from time to time. There was mention to UFO activity in Wigan and throughout Lancashire regarding triangular flying objects which were seen whilst witnesses were in a comet Hale Bopp sensitized state, yet a second letter to the MOD triggered a response. The MOD claimed that there were no reports of UFOs seen in Wigan on that particular date.If the case was turning into some kind of UFO flap, then any military aircraft in the area would certainly been thought to have some connection with the UFO reports.


Articles state that a search and rescue operation was conducted for two days, however this is not what the local residents state. They say that the search only lasted a day at maximum, which was also confirmed in the RAF Times, even though they had put down the wrong area. There has been mention of up to fifty witnesses, however I believe that this figure may have been exaggerated somewhat. It had been stated that the rescue operation was on its way within 20 minutes. After talking with the local rescue operation department, I find the whole remark about 20 minutes interesting, because according the the ROD Rescue Operation Department it can take up to 40 minutes to locate the vicinity where a severe incident may have occurred. An apparent sonic boom was recorded in Leeds and analysed by the Seismic Unit at Edinburgh University. They stated that the boom occurred at the time the UFO incidents took place. But it seems to me that the UFO has not yet been established. Going back to the witness that claimed he saw beams of light coming down from the sky onto Majorie Hill. If this be true, he may have misidentified the helicopters search lights.


OK. What about Martin Jeffrey's.... He had claimed to have seen a crash site, photographs where the so called UFO had turned the grass blue and hundreds of soldiers in the vicinity. Hmmmm. Sounds a little unbelievable. This is what David Clarke & Martin Jeffrey's wrote about the incident...


1. There clearly was a military exercise taking place centred upon the Peak District that night, one phase of which (now officially admitted) is timed from 7.30-9.30pm, when the RAF claim all their aircraft were safely grounded and accounted for. However, the evidence from both witnesses in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire and the sonic booms recorded by the BGS suggest a covert part of this operation continued after the “booked” operation had been officially completed. Many more aircraft were involved in this exercise than has been officially admitted, as is clear from the 13 low-flying complaints lodged with the RAF on March 24 from widely separated areas of the British coastline. It is clear that a formation of Tornado aircraft travelled across the Peak District on a southeast to northwest flightpath between 9.45 and 10pm, coinciding with the first of two sonic booms recorded 12 minutes apart from the Sheffield area.


2. At least three groups of observers reported sightings of UFO-type phenomena during the course of the evening of March 24. These were the reports from 7.40 pm in Barnsley (uncorroborated), a second shortly before 10pm by a single observer in Dronfield, Derbyshire., and a third by a single witness in Stannington, Sheffield, who saw what she described as a cigar-shaped object. The proximity in time and space to the sightings seconds later in Bolsterstone of a low-flying aircraft suggests this latter observation was a misperception of a airplane flying at low altitude with an unfamiliar light configuration, as was suggested by a number of witnesses in the Bolsterstone area. Much has been made of these sightings by the ETH believers, to whom “triangle UFOs” have become an article of faith in their beliefs. However, when they are examined in context of the sightings of military aircraft quite clearly taking part in a low-flying operation after the fall of darkness, it becomes clear that the “triangles” are misperceived aircraft taking part in this exercise. These were almost certainly Tornado fighter/bombers, delta-winged Jaguar aircraft, and other smaller training craft.


3. The most specific evidence connecting the Howden Moors incident with the military are the sonic events recorded by the British Geological Survey at precisely 9.52 and 10.06 pm on the evening of March 24. The MOD have claimed they “have no record” of RAF or NATO aircraft causing these sonic booms, which were recorded in the Sheffield area by three separate seismograph stations in the case of the later event. However, the BGS clearly state that the explosions “could only have been caused by a military aircraft reaching supersonic speed.” Breaches of the sound barrier above land are clearly a serious offence which could result in a Military Police investigation and/or a court martial. In addition, the explosions which were recorded played a large part in the decision by South Yorkshire Police to launch a major air and land search which it is estimated cost the taxpayer in excess of £50,000. Evidence from some police sources and the statement of a senior manager atYorkshire Water suggests the RAF did admit responsibility at a later stage in the search operation. However, so far the MOD have refused to discuss whether any investigation was initiated as a result of the Howden Moor incident, and continue to deny any connection between the sonic events and the exercise which they maintain was completed by 9.30pm that night.


4. Coincidental to the military operation, it is clear from the evidence of the eyewitnesses and the police log that at least one, possibly two, light civilian aircraft were operating in the sky above north Sheffield, and northeast Derbyshire, both before and after the events which triggered the search and rescue operation, coinciding with the second sonic boom. One of these fixed-wing, propeller driven aircraft was recorded on camcorder video by witnesses in northern Sheffield shortly after 10.30pm that night, and despite a police investigation the pilot and airfield involved has never been identified. It is clear also that a second, and somewhat larger fixed wing aircraft, followed a flightpath across the north of the city shortly after 10pm, flying east to west along the Ewden Valley at an altitude below 500 feet and disappeared in a northwesterly direction over the Midhope Moors towards the Howden Reservoir. A light aircraft could not accelerate to supersonic speed, therefore there must have been two aircraft in the same area at that time. It follows therefore that the aircraft reported in the vicinity of Bolsterstone that night must have been either a civilian aircraft flying illegally in breach of CAA regulations and having filed no flightpath, or a military aircraft which was playing a role in the covert military operation which was clearly ongoing that evening.


It's now 2009 when putting this article together. It is true to state that David's information is correct as more information over the years has come to light. But remember. The above statements 1 - 4 were compiled by David Clarke & Martin Jeffrey's. So what part in these 4 statements did Jeffrey's have anything to do with? Where is this information that Jeffrey's had innitially told us? Jeffrey's claims to have been told about the activity in the area of Ladybower by a Sheffield reporter and claims to have been the first one at the site where he had seen hundreds of soldiers. He claims he was harassed by the security forces. Jeffrey's is or was the director of investigations for YUFON (Yorkshire UFO Network) and Andy Roberts stated that Jeffrey's is a hothead of ufological rumour and desire and suggests that he does not believe that he is involved as much as he states he was.


I contacted Graham Birdsall and asked if he knew anything of Martin Jeffrey's photographs or analysis be carried out. Graham laughed and said he had no idea what I was talking about. My next point of call was John King, editor of UFO Reality magazine. I asked him the same question. John replied "I have had no such photographs, know nothing about any analysis be carried out and cetainly know nothing about a Martin Jeffrey's article featurring them". So, I guess I was told a pack of lies by this guy. (The worst type of so called Ufologists). Andy was right! So... even though I have great respect for David Clarke, I guess he should be a little more careful who he associates with and especially who he writes articles with...

Finally, there was numerous TV coverage of the search and rescue and I believe the Strange But True series may have also covered something on it.


Another investigator called Max Burns claims something rather fantastic! He claims a witness called Jonathan Dagenhart saw the co-pilot of a Tornado fighter jet which was destroyed by a large triangular shaped UFO it was pursuing above the Peak District on the evening of March 24th 1997. Apparently, after bailing out of his aircraft, this co-pilot parachuted onto the A57 Snake Pass, one of the busiest tans-Pennine roads linking the cities of Sheffield and Manchester. Despite being soaked to the skin with highly inflammable aviation fuel, the co-pilot did not radio emergency services for help but decided to hitch a lift from a passing mini-bus in which Mr. Dagenhart and friends were travelling to Sheffield.


How true this is I do not know, but the case has become a bit of a free for all and I would not be surprised at this time if outrageous claims start to surface. If there is some truth to Max Burns claims then it might suggest that the fires near the A57 were somehow connected to a downed or explosion of a Tornado jet. But.... Hey, the chances of that happening and in a location that the public are allowed to travel backwards and forwards are very slim. Who knows.... Max Burns did telephone me one day and asked me about Jeffrey's remarks, I told him exactly how it came about and what Jeffrey's said word for word. Hey! but you don't have to take my word for it... You can take the other three witnesses with me during the telephone conversation or even better, listen to the recorded conversation between myself & Jeffrey's which we did at the time.


Whatever it was that was seen that night. It remains a mystery!


Special Thanks to Steve Yarwood, Alan Smith, Max Burns, John King, David Clarke, Graham Birdsall & Andy Roberts.

Compiled by Steve Mera.

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