Ferry Officer Cleared Of Yacht Deaths

A car ferry officer has been found not guilty of the manslaughter of three crewmen who died when their yacht sank in the English Channel.

Michael Hubble, 62, was accused of failing to raise the alarm when the P&O car ferry Pride of Bilbao allegedly narrowly missed the yacht Ouzo off the Isle of Wight last year.

James Meaby and Rupert Saunders, both 36, from Tooting, and Jason Downer, 35, from Kent were killed when the yacht sank on August 21 last year.

Hubble, of Wine House Lane, Capel-le-Ferne, Folkestone, was officer of the watch of ferry when the alleged incident occurred. He had denied manslaughter through gross negligence.

The jury at Winchester Crown Court is still considering separate charges under the Merchant Shipping Act of engaging in conduct as a seaman that was likely to cause death or serious injury to the three men.

During the trial, the jury heard that the three crewmen of the Ouzo were school and university friends who had left Bembridge on the Isle of Wight on the evening tide of August 20 to travel to Devon to participate in the Dartmouth regatta.

The court heard that Mr Saunders was the owner and skipper of the Ouzo, which was 24 years old, but well maintained and equipped, and that all three men were experienced sailors. They were all found dead wearing inflated lifejackets.

During the trial, Hubble consistently said that he had had a close-quarters incident with a yacht, which was not the Ouzo. He also told the court that he was "perfectly happy" that the ferry had missed a yacht and that he believed he had no reason to call the captain.

Experts from South Tyneside College also said that they had calculated that the Ouzo was close to a 3,000-tonne coastal tanker called Crescent Beaune and not the Pride of Bilbao around 1.40am on August 21.

Alaistair Crichton, captain of the tanker, told the court that he had broken the law when he had only a second officer and not another lookout on the bridge that evening.


Related UK National News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

24 August 2006
Three bodies recovered from the English Channel
The Coastguard has now recovered three bodies from the English Channel in the search for a missing yacht and its crew. The two bodies were spotted by the Coastguard's rescue helicopter on Wednesday night, five miles south of St. Catherine's Point, just off the southern tip of the Isle of Wight.
25 August 2006
English Channel bodies identified
Two bodies discovered in the English Channel in the search for a missing yacht and its three-men crew have been identified.
21 September 2006
Ferry worker arrested over yacht deaths
A P&O ferry worker has been arrested in connection with the deaths of three sailors, whose bodies were found following the disappearance of their yacht in the English Channel. The 61-year-old from Dover, who works on the firm's Pride of Bilbao, was arrested on Wednesday, police confirmed.
30 August 2006
Ferry examined in yacht-sinking inquiry
Police investigating the deaths of three sailors after the sinking of their yacht are examining a ferry as part of the investigation. Police began examining the P&O ferry Pride of Bilbao on Tuesday night. P&O has also handed over the black box recorder from the ship to police.
25 March 2009
Three Arrested Over Briton Yacht Murder
Police investigating the murder of a British holidaymaker who was attacked and thrown into the sea off Thailand's southern coast, have arrested three men. The body of Malcolm Robertson, 64, who was killed while sailing with his wife Linda, 57, near Koh Dong, has not been found.