A British judge found that a submarine did not cause the sinking of a capsized fishing boat off the coast of Cornwall with the loss of five men almost 18 years ago.
Judge Nigel Lickley QC, who oversaw an investigation into the tragedy, ruled that French trawler Bugaled Breizh sank after its fishing gear caught on the seabed, causing it to list – tip over to one side – and catch some water.
Relatives of the men lost in the tragedy have long believed the boat sank after a submarine got tangled in its fishing gear, and they saw the London investigation as a last chance to get what ‘they believe to be the truth.
During the investigation with the Royal Courts of Justice, the UK’s top submarine commanders said there were three Allied submarines at sea in the region at the time, meeting for a military exercise. However, they said the closest – the Dutch submarine Dolfijn – was about 11 nautical miles from the Bugaled Breizh when the fishing boat sank.
They also said that a fourth submarine relatives suspected of having been involved, HMS Turbulent, was docked in Plymouth that day, and they told the court they were sure no submarines were Unallied sailor was only found in the area.
Lickley said the reason for the sinking had been the subject of “debate and speculation”. He suggested it was caused by sighting a submarine during the rescue operation, but said he was sure it was Dolfijn, who arrived long after the sinking. to assist in the search for survivors.
The judge said he was satisfied that the Royal Navy had told the truth about the position of the Allied submarines that day, calling the commanders’ testimony “credible”. ” Nothing [of the allied submarines] was close to the Bugaled Breizh when it sank, they were several kilometers away, ”he said.
The judge added that he believed the naval officers’ findings that they were sure no non-Allied submarines were in the area. The judge said there was “no doubt” that Turbulent was at the dock at the time.
Lickley said if a submarine got tangled with the fishing gear it would have caused more damage to the equipment. He also ruled that the “geometry” of how the craft was found was “incompatible” with the fact that it was being dragged by a submarine. “The evidence does not support the involvement of the submarines,” he said.
The judge said he believed the sinking on January 15, 2004 was a fishing accident. He found that the boat’s fishing gear had buried itself in the seabed, causing the vessel to list, take on water and sink within minutes.
Five French people died: Yves Marie Gloaguen, 45, Pascal Lucien Le Floch, 49, Patrick Gloaguen, 35, Georges Lemetayer, 60, and Eric Guillamet, 42. Because the first two were transported by rescuers to Cornwall, an investigation was heard in Britain. It has been delayed so far while French authorities investigate.
In his 114-page judgment, Lickley said details of the “harsh and demanding” conditions the fishermen were working in emerged during the investigation. He said there was no suggestion that the boat was unsafe or unlicensed, and that he was allowed to fish where it sank. The crew were experienced and knowledgeable, he said.
Despite the judge’s findings, there were snippets that will be seized by conspiracy theorists who believe there has been a cover-up. In his summary on Friday, the judge reminded the court that a very experienced lifeboat coxswain said it was the first time he had seen a submarine during a rescue. The coxswain called the submariners “secrets”.
Lickley also summarized evidence that a naval officer aboard a rescue helicopter told crew members not to mention that they had seen a submarine.