The mysterious Devon UFO police chase which led to an MoD investigation

The mysterious Devon UFO police chase which led to an MoD investigation

'We've just gently been asked to sweep it under the carpet. It didn't happen - that's what they said. But we know what we saw.'

Source: Devon Live

The quiet, rolling countryside between Hatherleigh and Holsworthy in West Devon may look as different to Area 51 in the baking Nevada desert as you can imagine, but in that spot in 1967 there was a UFO sighting which baffled experts for years.

It was October 24, and PCs Roger Willey and Clifford Waycott were patrolling the A3072 between the two remote Devon towns.

In the chilly hours of early morning, the two officers spotted what later became known as the ‘Devon cross’ – a brightly illuminated, ‘star-spangled cross’ capable of incredible speed and agility hovering just above the treeline.

They claimed it was around the size of a commercial aircraft.

The officers, who were just outside Hatherleigh at the time, tried to approach the object – making it as close as 400m before it started moving again.

They said it gave the impression of watching them.

After reporting it to Okehampton police station, they set off in pursuit, hitting speeds of up to 90mph as they tried to keep up.

But it was to no avail – it was simply too quick for them as they spent almost an hour pursuing the bizarre object.

The officers even woke up a man asleep in his car in a lay-by – a 29-year-old holiday-maker from Luton by the name of Christopher Garner.

He confirmed what the officers had seen.

Extra police units were dispatched to the scene but nothing was found.

“It was definitely there and definitely either manned by some sort of being or remotely controlled. It was definitely being controlled to view our car,” said PC Willey in black and white news footage from the time.

“There was no question whatsoever if it was a figment of the imagination.

“On various points of its journey, it was attaining high altitude and it was down to treetop level at other times.

“There was no sound that I heard at all – there was no outside sound apart from the car itself.”

“Constable Willey just said ‘here we go then’ and we drove off after it,” continued PC Waycott.

“It was just in front of us.

“We were travelling very fast. The acceleration of it was terrific so we never got under it to hear any sound.”

The episode baffled police, and the RAF denied it was anything to do with them.

They insisted no craft capable of both hovering on the spot and supersonic speeds had been invented.

And not long afterwards, officials from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) were sent in as an investigation began – results from which were classified until 2005.

The officers were questioned, while also being reminded that they were bound by the Official Secrets Act.

This was not the first UFO sighting in Devon around that time.

In April 1967, a dome-shaped object was sighted over Brixham at around 1,600 ft at noon for approximately one hour.

There was also a brief UFO sighting in Okehampton on October 5 – just three weeks before the police officers’ own experience.

Four witnesses from a company called Sterling Hatcheries reported to Okehampton police that they had seen through binoculars a brilliant white semi-spherical object “like an inverted parachute” for two hours from 8.50am.

It apparently lay in the direction of Okehampton Camp, to the south of the town, and over the two-hour period of observation it moved horizontally at an altitude of about 50 degrees.

In fact, October 1967 became a prolific month for UFO sighitings.

Three days after the Hatherleigh sighting, there was an incident involving a UFO in Cheshire – coincidentally also spotted by police officers.

Again, it was described as ‘bright, cross-shaped and travelling at about 1,000 feet, this time travelling in a north-easterly direction.

About 15 minutes later, another PC at at Mottram-in-Longdendale reported seeing something similar – although this was probably the same ‘object’ that the officers in Cheshire could see.

To some, the spate of UFO sighting are confirmation that we are not alone, while others speculate they could have been down to some Cold War spy plane – developed either by Russia or the West.

Time has certainly done nothing to lessen the doubt experienced by the two officers near Holsworthy.

In an interview in 2004, Willey said “It was something that I hadn’t seen before, I haven’t seen since, and something that nobody can explain exactly what it was.”

“No explanation has been given to us by anybody and we haven’t asked,” said Waycott.

“We’ve just gently been asked to sweep it under the carpet. It didn’t happen – that’s what they said. But we know what we saw.”

The Ministry of Defence had come up with an explanation – but it was one they did not reveal until 38 year after the incident.

They blamed the planet Venus – something which is frequently thought to be at the root of UFO sightings – especially as it can appear to be both close and exceptionally bright at around dawn.

“The most likely explanation is still Venus,” it read.

“Venus was known to be visible on the eastern horizon at about that time of day and would have been sufficiently bright to have cast a shadow.”

At its brightest, Venus is only out-shone by the moon at night.

It frequently vanishes from the night sky, with successive appearances happening 19 months apart.

Also, Venus never ventures more than 47 degrees away from the sun, so it tends to hug the horizon closely — where many people report seeing UFOs, including the Okehampton sighting.

The officers claimed they had been looking to the north-east when they first saw it, and that it frequently changed position.

The report put this down to the winding nature of the road and the speed at which the officers were driving.

It also accused the officers of drawing their own conclusions about seeing a ‘spaceship’ because they had given their version of events so many times already to superiors and the press before they spoke to an MoD investigator.

However, the report suggested no public statement was made questioning the officers’ honesty or integrity, instead preferring to let it be known ‘off the record’ that ‘Venus remains the most likely explanation and that there are some grounds for believing that the policemen’s account of what they saw was not 100 per cent accurate’.

UFO and alien reports continue to this day.

Over 2015, 2016 and 2017, there were 10 reported sightings to Devon and Cornwall Police, according to Freedom of Information requests – two in Exeter, two in Plymouth, two in Redruth and one in Honiton, Dawlish, Truro and Falmouth.

The nature – and probably the veracity – of those reports vary, with one caller claiming an alien ‘was stood in the corner’ of their room, another saying he was ‘only taking part of his medication and now seeing aliens’ while a third stated she saw ‘a UFO being chased by a Stealth Jet up the M5’.

Unsurprisingly, police view a large number of these claims with scepticism.

In fact, they concluded that eight of the 10 reports ‘involved individuals with mental health issues and are therefore not indicative of extra-terrestrial sightings’.

The other two – incidents in Falmouth and Plymouth in 2016 – both involved ‘individuals who were recorded as sounding heavily intoxicated’.

Neither of those accusations have been levelled at PCs Willey and Waycott, who have always stood firm over what they claim to have seen.

“You had the feeling it was watching you?” asks the television interviewer shortly after the incident.

“Yes,” replies Waycott, while Willey responds with an emphatic “definitely”.

Source: Devon Live

David Aragorn
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