Ilfracombe Harbour death fisherman 'seen at pub'

A fisherman who went drinking after bad weather delayed his trip to sea may have died after striking his head and falling into the harbour, an inquest has been told.

The body of Jamie Barbeary, from Swansea, was found at Ilfracombe Harbour in Devon in October 2009.

The 37-year-old had been due to skipper the trawler Olivia Belle at midnight.

The inquest in Exeter heard Mr Barbeary was nearly three times the legal limit for drinking and driving.

After another fishing vessel warned Mr Barbeary about the weather, he delayed his departure and was seen drinking at a nearby pub.

'Heard a bang'

The inquest jury was told Mr Barbeary's colleague, James McAuley, was waiting for him on board the Olivia Belle a few hours before its rescheduled departure when he heard a bang - as though someone had fallen against the boat.

He went to investigate, but could not find anything in the darkness and when the skipper failed to arrive, the boat remained in the harbour.

Mr Barbeary's body was found in the harbour the following morning, with severe injuries to his face and body.

Mr McAuley said he walked past the Waverley Inn at about 19:30 BST to get some food and join the boat, when he saw Mr Barbeary - who usually lived on the Olivia Belle when not staying with his girlfriend and two children in Swansea - at the pub.

He said Mr Barbeary was in a good mood and although he had had "a few pints", he did not appear to be drunk.

The inquest was told of "dangers" involved in getting from the harbour's fuelling berth, where the Olivia Belle had been docked, to the vessel itself.

Aaron Tinknell, skipper's mate to Mr Barbeary, said it was not uncommon to jump over small gaps and to climb railings to get on board boats.

Marcus White, skipper of Josie Grace, the Olivia Belle's sister vessel, said he had previously raised concerns at the harbour with the size of the gap between the fuelling berth and some boats.

A post-mortem examination found Mr Barbeary's death was caused by a head injury, and that he was alive when he entered the water.

'Caught by tide'

Ilfracombe harbour master Robin Lawson said he saw CCTV footage which he believed showed Mr Barbeary walking along the quay and stepping alongside his boat.

He said he recognised Mr Barbeary from his "gait and silhouette".

"The footage shows him walking across as if he's going to board the vessel," he said.

"The camera then scans away and when it returns, he's gone.

"I didn't see Jamie Barbeary fall from the boat or into the sea - but I saw him stepping alongside it, going to step out."

Asked why Mr Barbeary had not been ordered to leave the fuelling berth after taking on fuel, Mr Lawson said the skipper had been "caught by the tide".

"He probably misjudged it and was too late to move to another berth," Mr Lawson said.

The inquest continues.

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