(Feb. 18) -- The minister in charge of domestic law enforcement and passports in Britain is used to close scrutiny. But the government figured it was worth an extra look when six witnesses swore they saw a UFO hovering over his house.
That was one of more 1,600 "unexplained aerial sightings" reported in the U.K. from 1994 to 2000 and described in more than 6,000 pages of formerly secret papers released today by the British Ministry of Defense.
The 1997 incident was taken seriously enough that the Royal Air Force began an immediate investigation of what witnesses, including two firefighters, reported as a large, triangular "humming" object seen over a house owned by then-Home Secretary Michael Howard.
The object was described as being much bigger than a plane, with lights around the outside and a disc on the back, fitting a classic description of UFOs reported around the world.
"It was so peculiar," one witness told a local paper, "it all felt really odd, and I heard this humming noise. After a few seconds it shot off, leaving in a flash of light." It then returned, flashing off again three or four times, she added, before disappearing altogether.
The RAF concluded that nothing unusual had happened and no military activity had been reported in the area, in Folkestone, Kent, overlooking the English Channel.
In another incident, a man driving in Wales on Jan. 27, 1997, said he was surrounded for five minutes by a "tube of light" that swept toward him. His radio and cell phone stopped working, and he later felt ill and developed a skin condition, the report said.
Two years earlier the pilots of a Boeing 737 reported a "near miss" with a UFO as they were approaching Manchester airport. Both pilots said they saw a lighted object flying at high speed toward them on the airliner's right side.
Again, no unusual traffic activity was reported in the area, and the Ministry of Defense report said it could find no evidence of extraterrestrial activity.
According to The Guardian, the reports released today reflect the ministry's "growing irritation with the subject."
The next batch of reports is scheduled to be released next year, and they will be the last.
On Dec. 1, the ministry announced it would no longer be investigating UFO sightings reported by the public