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Last Updated: Friday, 17 December, 2004, 12:07 GMT
Trawler sinking 'not deliberate'
The Gaul
The Gaul was a state-of-the-art trawler
A report on the sinking of the Hull trawler the Gaul has ruled out theories it was deliberately sunk by Russians or pulled down by a submarine.

The trawler sank in the Barents Sea, off the Norwegian coast, in February 1974 with the loss of 36 crewmen.

A public inquiry report on Friday concluded that the ship sank because its hold became flooded during a storm.

But families of the dead crewmen say they fear will never find out the truth behind what caused the sinking.

The Wreck Commissioner, Mr Justice Steel, announced the inquiry's conclusions at the Guildhall in Hull.

Chutes left open

Mr Justice Steel said he had come to the "firm conclusion that the cause of the loss had been clearly established" as the trawler's factory deck being flooded during a storm.

He said the probable cause of this was water entering the deck through the "duff and offal chutes" which had been left open.

He also rejected other explanations which had been put forward including capture by the Russians and waves caused by nuclear explosions.

Even if suspected of spying it was obviously not a practical proposition in the prevailing weather and sea conditions
Mr Justice Steel

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He said there was no evidence the Gaul had been fishing at the time of her sinking and rejected rumours the nets had become caught on a submarine which dragged the vessel down onto the sea bed.

Open secret

Lynne Flay, who lost her husband Sidney, said she was disappointed with the inquiry outcome.

"I think they've tried to hide what really happened," she said. "They can make things sound plausible if they want to but some of the things which were said just don't add up."

Beryl Betts, chairwoman of the Gaul's Family Association, who lost her brother Billy in the tragedy, said: "I don't believe the explanation that was given.

"It wasn't as simple as the chutes being left open. There's no closure for me. We've only heard about one explanation for the sinking and I can't accept that."

Former chief petty officer Derek Barron
Derek Barron said a submarine may have been to blame
At a special session of the inquiry in October, former naval chief petty officer Derek Barron gave evidence claiming to have overheard a conversation suggesting a British submarine may have come into contact with it.

An initial public inquiry held after the sinking concluded the 18-month-old ship had sunk, without raising a Mayday signal, after being battered by heavy seas.

Most of the men who died in the tragedy were from Hull, but six members of crew were from North Shields.

The wreck of the Gaul was found in 1997 prompting Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to launch an inquiry after a survey of the wreck brought new evidence to light.

A breakthrough came in 2002 when the remains of four crew members were retrieved from the wreck and DNA enabled them to be identified.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
One victim's son gives his reaction to the report



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