(Names and other personal details have been removed from the version published online.)
In due course, we will publish the follow-ups and other relevant information.
RE: The trawler Gaul tragedy: recent history, the Re-opened Formal Investigation (2004) and subsequent eventsWe consider that the matters presented below may be worthy of your attention:
My name is [xxxxxxxxx]...[xxxxxxxxx]...[xxxxxxxxx]
In the course of my work there [at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency], I had reason to examine a number of technical issues associated with the design and construction of the trawler Gaul (lost in 1974 with 36 deaths).
In 2002, the reason for the vessel’s loss was still very much a mystery; however, the case was to be re-opened and a Governmental Formal Investigation carried out.
On looking into this case, I noted that the design of the closing arrangements for two refuse chute openings in the hull of the vessel were of poor design and that, in certain circumstances, they could be expected to malfunction. I was also aware that, in rough weather, a malfunction in these arrangements, positioned as they were just above the waterline, could lead to flooding, capsize and the loss of the vessel.
I discussed this matter with my MCA colleagues and the relevant Inspectors from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch
(MAIB), who concurred on this subject. The MAIB subsequently agreed to add these refuse chutes (for disposal of duff and offal waste) to their extensive list of items for examination during their forthcoming underwater survey.
The MAIB informed me of these findings at that time, but also advised that I should not discuss or reveal this information to others in view of the forthcoming Re-opened Formal Investigation (RFI).
The Formal Investigation
The RFI, held under the auspices of the DPM, John Prescott, and conducted on behalf of the Attorney General, started in Hull on 13 January 2004 and closed on 27 February 2004; it then re-opened again on 8 October, for one day, to hear additional evidence. The final report of the Investigation was published on 17 December 2004.
Following the publication of the RFI’s final report, I was somewhat surprised to see that human error/negligence, on the part of the crew, had been put forward as the causal factor for this tragedy. I was also surprised to find out that only a very cursory attention had been paid to the design, construction and closing arrangements for these two hull side openings that were deemed to have been critical to the vessel’s loss.
A further examination of the final report and of the evidence that was presented during the RFI, (this is available online at http://www.fv-gaul.org.uk/) revealed a number of inconsistencies, omissions and errors, the cumulative effect of which indicated that the conclusions of the RFI were unsound.
Since that time I have carried out a significant amount of private research, which now clearly points to the fact that a miscarriage of justice has occurred, that this has happened with intent, and as the result of specific actions and inactions by those who were charged with the conduct of this Investigation. (The Investigation was carried out under the supervision of the Attorney General’s office).
In private, some of the technical staff, who had also been involved in the Gaul investigation, expressed their frustrations as to the way the RFI had been conducted and admitted that its outcome had been unsound. They, however, refrained from speaking openly against it.
Recently, we have raised a number of questions with the investigating authorities (the Attorney General’s office (Treasury Solicitor), the DfT, the MAIB and the presiding Judge); they have all been unwilling and, apparently, unable to give satisfactory answers to our concerns.
We have also raised questions in Parliament through our local MP, the answers to which (from the Transport minister) are known to be evasive, misleading and, in some instances, factually incorrect.
One of the reasons why we are bringing these matters to your attention at this moment in time is the fact that both my wife and I have been the subject of considerable harassment during the past four years and that this state of affairs is continuing (both within and without the workplace).
We have, therefore, concluded that the only way out of this situation is to bring the facts out into the open. We have realised that the reason for the harassment is, the fact that we know that the RFI was ‘rigged’ by the Government in order to arrive at a pre-determined and convenient outcome, and that we have evidence to show that this was the case.
While guiding a Formal Investigation along a narrow course towards a pre-determined conclusion may or may not be technically illegal from a procedural point of view, we perceive that obstructing justice in order to prevent interested parties from suing for lawful compensation amounts to fraud; we also consider that this is a perversion of justice, and it is our obligation to bring this matter to the attention of the relevant authorities.
The threats, harassment and intimidation that we have had to endure throughout this period are also against the law.
The harassment we are complaining about includes various forms of offensive behaviour and intimidation: noticeable monitoring of our private and workplace communications, hassle from various government bodies, invasions of our privacy, tampering with our car, shadowing and bullying at work, stalking by unknown parties, repeated emails with distressing or bizarre content, strange phone calls and cold call visitors, various other ‘dirty tricks’ and, most worryingly for us, death threats.
We appreciate that the above contains a number of serious allegations and that it is difficult to believe that our Government would be prepared to go to such lengths on an issue such as this; however, it is suggested that this matter should be viewed in terms of the political fallout that could occur should the initial wrongdoing and subsequent cover-up in this case be revealed. We have evidence supporting these allegations and the Government knows that we have it.
It is considered that the Government’s initial motive for steering the RFI towards a finding of crew error rather than a finding of fault in the vessel’s design is based on the fact that the Government is still notionally responsible for liabilities that arise from the
UK’s shipbuilding yards that were nationalised in 19771. A design fault in the Gaul, leading to its loss, would have rendered the shipbuilders (Brooke Marine -no longer trading) and possibly the Classification Society (the organisation that certified the vessel) liable to claims for compensation from the relatives of the deceased. The sums involved could be significant: current UK legislation puts a limit on such claims at around £1.5m for each life lost.
Initially, my involvement and input into the Gaul case would have been seen as a ‘loose end’ that would need to be tidied up once the conclusions of the RFI were known (after all, as a civil servant, I am covered by the official secrets act). However, this tidying up exercise has not, as yet, led to the desired result and the scale of the cover-up has had to grow to contain the expanding scandal.
In the light of the above, we are now referring this matter to you with the hope that you will investigate the fraud and subsequent cover-up that we believe have been committed and thus help all those concerned to restore justice in this case.
Many thanks and best regards,
The two websites mentioned below give extensive information on the technical issues associated with the loss of the Gaul, including commentary, criticism and correspondence:
1 We have raised a parliamentary question on this particular matter (2 November 2006 ref. Brooke Marine) however we have not been able to verify whether the Government’s response to this question is correct and that it reveals the whole truth. In any case, regardless of the Government’s viewpoint it would be for the courts to decide where liability for a shipyard design error actually lay. The Classification Society (Lloyds Register) is still trading.