Sunday, February 25, 2007


After a suitable delay, Laurance O’Dea, the Treasury Solicitor, emailed a reply to our oft-repeated enquiry regarding the missing evidence in the Gaul investigation.

In his response, dated 23.02.2007, Mr O’Dea again sought to dispel our concerns about the soundness of the investigation, this time by assuring us that the retained experts in the RFI “were able to consider the various drawings of the vessel, including the arrangements of the duff and offal chutes before the public hearings”, that “these experts had been instructed to make their own judgments on the evidence that they were able to see” and that they were “independent and reached conclusions on the evidence available to them”.

Fair enough, so far, but what we actually wanted to know, though, was whether the evidence available to those experts included any mention of the design fault that the specialists from MCA and MAIB had discussed and agreed upon some time ago. Was this evidence contained in the bundle that ‘they were able to see’? We still haven’t got an answer to this question.

The evidence presented to the Inquiry, and accepted by the Wreck Commissioner was that the chutes were not secured and that water was able to find its way onto the factory deck” and “there was very strong evidence from the survey that the chutes were open and not secured at the time of the loss” the missive further explains.

Up to this point, we agree with the Treasury Solicitor. But then he goes on to say that “there was no evidence[1] that the chutes had been forced open by wave or water action so this was not advanced as a loss scenario by the experts

Pardon? But, we have already demonstrated that there was enough evidence, which, in legal terms, is called ‘scientific evidence’ – i.e. deduced from well-recognized scientific principles –that supported this loss scenario.

The fact that the chutes were found open at the time of the underwater survey means just that. It does not tell us when or how they had become open. And it certainly does not reveal that they had been open for some time before the incident[2]
To assume otherwise is simply jumping to conclusions.

We don’t know how the retained experts made their judgements; we fear, however, that the evidence that was placed before them was selected in a way that rather ‘counted the hits and overlooked the misses’.

[1] We would also like to point out that there was no concrete evidence to back the RFI’s conclusion that the non-return flaps had seized in the open position due to corrosion. In our post of January 30, we also showed that, in fact, there was evidence to the contrary.
(Note: the RFI relied heavily on the testimony of a former DOT surveyor who had carried out a survey on an older Gaul sister vessel. He had found that the flaps on that vessel were open and stated that they were rustbound and frozen. Had he been questioned further on this issue, the court would have learned that, whilst the flaps may have been found to be open, it was only an assumption on his part that this had been due to corrosion. The hinges that were assumed to have corroded were not in fact visible to the naked eye and, in order to establish whether corrosion had occurred or not, it would have been necessary to dismantle the flap assemblies).
[2] For further details on these issues you can revisit our previous posts and the factor tree diagram.

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