Cornwall

Bugaled Breizh: Inquest to conclude 15 years after fishermen's deaths

Bugaled Breizh Image copyright AFP
Image caption Five men died on the trawler 14 miles off Cornwall in 2004

An inquest into the deaths of two French fishermen killed when their vessel sank 15 years ago is to be held.

The five-strong crew of the Bugaled Breizh drowned when it went down off the Cornish coast in January 2004.

Crew members' families claim a submarine was responsible, but that has been denied by British authorities and rejected by French courts.

The two-week hearing into the deaths of Pascal Le Floch and Yves Gloaguen has been listed to start on 25 November.

'Case needs pressure'

Relatives believe the trawler was dragged underwater 14 miles off the Lizard Peninsula when a submarine became snagged in its nets.

The sinking happened a day before Nato military exercises officially began in the area.

The UK's Ministry of Defence has always denied involvement.

France's top judicial court, the Court of Cassation, said in 2006 there was no evidence to support the submarine claim, nor that it was a fishing accident.

Acting Chief Cornwall Coroner Andrew Cox said the central issue was still to determine how the vessel sank for the inquest and the "case needs the pressure putting on" because of a "pressing need to move this matter on" after so long.

He said the hearing would consider four options for its conclusion, including:

  • Whether a submarine was involved.
  • If there had been a fishing accident.
  • Had there been contact with another surface vessel.
  • Another reason.

Timeline of events:

2007 - British and Dutch submarines were cleared by French court officials of any involvement in the sinking.

2008 - Inquiry concludes a nuclear submarine snagging the boat's trawl was the "highly probable cause" of the sinking, but the judges recommended the investigation be wound up, with no guilty party traced.

2010 - A French appeal court relaunches the investigation to try to identify what US submarines were in the vicinity at the time.

2014 - The inquiry was eventually thrown out by a court in Nantes in 2014.

2015 - The appeal court in Rennes rules there was no evidence a submarine was involved or that it was a fishing accident.

2016 - France's top judicial court, the Court of Cassation, closes the inquiry into the sinking, saying there was no evidence to support claims the vessel was sunk by a submarine, or it was a fishing accident.

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The bodies of two of the crew members were flown to Cornwall by rescue helicopter, which is why their inquests are being held in Truro.

A third crew member's body was brought back to France. The two others have never been found.

The 72ft (23m) trawler - the name of which translates as "child of Brittany" in Breton - was based at Loctudy.

It was salvaged for investigations and later destroyed.

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