A NORTH-EAST tourist jailed for making a drunken threat to hijack a plane in Australia will be released from prison tomorrow.

Thomas Lilico, 22, of Beechwood Avenue, Darlington, will be freed after serving two weeks of a month-long sentence imposed after he admitted making threatening comments on board an aircraft.

At Queensland Court of Appeal, in Australia, Justice Glen Williams said the sentence was justified, given terror fears since the September 11 attacks in the US and the bombing in Bali.

But he said Lilico should be released considering his youth, character and exemplary background, which had been testified to in references written by people who had taught and worked with him.

He was given a three-month jail term, suspended to one month, and made subject of a 12-month good behaviour bond by magistrates on January 2.

The court heard Lilico, who was on a working holiday in Australia, had taken an aerosol can out of his hand luggage and sprayed the cabin of a Qantas Airways flight before it left Cairns for the northern city of Darwin.

An airline attendant said she also heard Lilico threatening to use a knife to hijack the plane. Lilico later told police he had drunk eight pints of beer in the six hours before boarding the plane and could not remember what he had said.

At a previous appeal hearing last week, District Court Judge Michael Noud refused to overturn the sentence and said Lilico should be made an example as a deterrent.