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BBC Scotland's Willie Johnston reports
"A lone piper's lament pierced the chill night air as the men were brought ashore"
 real 28k

Sunday, 6 February, 2000, 14:23 GMT
Inquest heartbreak for trawlermen's families

Fishermen The victims of the Solway Harvester were recovered

The families of the victims of the Solway Harvester tragedy broke down as they heard details of how the crewmen's bodies were found in the wreck of the sunken fishing vessel.

Men and women wept as an inquest was opened and adjourned at Douglas Courthouse on the Isle of Man on Saturday afternoon.

The men, whose bodies were recovered on Friday - more than three weeks after the Kirkcudbright-registered scallop dredger sank in stormy seas on 11 January - were all recorded as having died by drowning.

Relatives Relatives broke down during the inquest
More than 20 relatives, supported by their local minister the Rev Alexander Currie and police liaison officers, packed the courtroom to hear the Coroner of Inquests, Michael Moyle, read out of the names of those who died.

All the men were identified by dental records.

As the first name - Martin Milligan, 26 - was read out the anguished sobs of his long-term partner Allison McIlwraith broke the silence.

Dressed in black she clutched the hand of an older woman for comfort as she heard how he was found on the gutting deck of the vessel wearing orange waterproof dungarees.

Like all the men Mr Milligan was described by police surgeon Dr Robert Christian as having an appearance "consistent with being immersed in water for three weeks".

I would like to officially record that the government acted with speed and commendable decisiveness
Coroner of Inquests Michael Moyle
Pathologist Louis Al-Alousi confirmed the cause of death was by drowning.

Two other crewmen were found in the decking area of the boat.

They were skipper Andrew Craig Mills, 29, and 22-year-old John Murphy.

The inquest heard four other crewmen were found in the accommodation section - they were David Lyons, 18; David Mills, 17; Robin Mills, 33; Wesley Jolly, 17.

After adjourning the inquests and releasing the bodies to the families, Mr Moyle offered his condolences before launching an attack on governments, which unlike his own, had refused to raise the bodies of lost fishermen from the sea for financial reasons.

The Isle of Man funded the operation to recover the men at a cost of 1m.

A policeman pays respect to the dead crewmen The bodies were brought ashore in Douglas
"I would like to officially record that the government acted with speed and commendable decisiveness," he said.

"In some cases it may be decided that the bodies remain in situ representing a watery grave and there can be cases where it would be impractical to retrieve the bodies.

"In the present case none of those conditions prevailed and the Manx government knew the families' wishes and took the speedy decision to make funds available for the bodies to be raised and returned to the grief-stricken families.

"There have been impressive arguments by other governments that they should be left in situ, but they only amount to the fact that although recovery is a possibility and the families wish it, for financial reasons such governments will refuse to intervene.

"To all ordinary and decent people such an attitude might be seen at best as penny-pinching and at worst as downright shameful."

The bodies are likely to be returned on Monday for burial.

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Trawler sinking
The unfolding of the Solway Harvester story

See also:
05 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Inquest begins on Harvester seven
04 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Divers recover trawler bodies
04 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Divers begin to recover bodies
03 Feb 00 |  Scotland
New Harvester lift hopes
05 Feb 00 |  Scotland
'Trust fund' plan to recover lost mariners
02 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Underwater tow plan devised
30 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Second Harvester body located
14 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Solway Harvester: A tale of tragedy

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