A POLICE investigation into collapsed Oxford airline Varsity Express has been dropped, it has emerged.

In March, Thames Valley Police received four complaints about the airline when its route from Oxford to Edinburgh was grounded after just one week, despite more than 350 advance passenger bookings.

Passengers were also left stranded at Edinburgh Airport when the new route to the Scottish capital was grounded on Monday, March 8.

The entrepreneur behind the operation, Martin Halstead, has always vigoruously denied his firm did anything wrong.

However, he did admit inventing a fictitious character called Will Gilligan, who acted as the firm’s commercial director.

Police spokesman Rebecca Webber said: “The case was passed to our Economic Crime Unit to carry out a thorough and detailed investigation into whether any fraud had been committed.

“The decision was made that this is a civil matter and Thames Valley Police will not be investigating further.

“Those involved have been written to and informed of this.”

Jon Ibbotson, managing director of Links Air, which supplied the 18-seater Jetstream 31 plane used for the route, said he was still owed more than £60,000 by Varsity.

He said: “I have not received a single penny back.

“It gave us a real panning on the financial side of things.

“It’s such a shame.

“Varsity got the town interested and excited at having a route to Edinburgh and through no fault of the airport or the people of Oxford, it’s fallen through.

“We would look into pursuing it as a civil matter.

“I put a complaint into the police but this is the first I have heard of this news.

“I’m very disappointed the police haven’t investigated it in a big way.”

Mr Ibbotson, who started the Humberside-based charter airline in September 2009, claims the money he is owed amounts to the equivalent of 20 per cent of the firm’s annual turnover.

Four recently-qualified pilots also handed over a total of £52,500 to Varsity Express to be ‘type-trained’ for that class of jet.

In March Mr Halstead said the pilots’ money would be reimbursed within three months, but pilot Peter Chilvers, 23, from Newcastle-under-Lyme, in Staffordshire, has not received a penny.

Mr Chilvers, who is now being type-trained by Ryanair, made a complaint to police in March.

He said: “I haven’t got any time or money to pursue this in a civil court.

“I haven’t seen any evidence of an investigation, the police never got in contact with me.”

The Oxford Mail has been unable to get in contact with Mr Halstead.