A team of former special-forces mercenaries have been arrested in connection with the criminal use of drones which has caused the widespread disruption to flights at Gatwick airport, police have told The Rochdale Herald.

In a statement released in the early hours of Saturday, Sussex police said the arrests were made in the Gatwick area, near the outer marker after a shootout at an abandoned church and a ski-doo chase across a frozen lake.

It is believed the drone operators were hoping to free the South America drug baron Ramon Esperanza who was being extradited to the UK by delaying every flight out of and into Gatwick airport until their demands were met.

“We’d like to thank the plucky off duty American policeman who happened to be at Gatwick waiting for his wife’s flight to arrive.”

“Fortunately he knew how to drive a ski-doo and was prepared to jump out of a helicopter onto the wing of a hijacked Boeing 747 and fight two special-forces soldiers to the death to ensure that we could re-open the runway.”

Gatwick is expected to be open until tomorrow morning.