French experts admit Plymouth submarine did not sink trawler
FRENCH experts have finally admitted that a Devonport-based nuclear submarine could not have been responsible for sinking a Breton trawler nine years ago.
Five fishermen died in the Bugaled Breizh tragedy off the Lizard in Cornwall in 2004.
Now French authorities have finally ruled out the claim that HMS Turbulent was to blame.
An expert report has dismissed a theory that Turbulent could have been caught up in the trawler's cables and dragged it down.
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But the fate of the trawler remains a mystery after experts also said there was no proof that any other submarine might have been involved.
A lawyer for French families of the victims had called for Turbulent's captain, Commander Andy Coles, to be investigated for manslaughter, in spite of assurances by the Ministry of Defence that the submarine was docked at Plymouth at the time.
Cdr Coles has repeatedly denied that his submarine was responsible for snagging the Bugaled's trawl cables.
A lawyer for the families had accused him and the Royal Navy of lying. It was claimed that one mystery witness heard a "confession" by Cdr Coles, and two others had heard a radio message from Turbulent saying she had suffered damage following a collision at the time of the accident and was returning to port.
Now a report by a submarine specialist, handed to judges investigating the accident, has confirmed that HMS Turbulent was nowhere near the Bugaled Breizh on January 15, 2004.
Other submarines from Nato countries were taking part in war games in the area where the trawler was sunk. But a separate report commissioned by the judges casts doubt on the theory that the Bugaled fell victim to a submarine at all.
The experts said that traces of titanium found on salvaged cables did not suggest a submarine was involved.
The metal oxide is widely used as protective coating for hulls of fishing vessels.
A Royal Navy spokesman said last night: "This bears out what the Navy has said all along. We hope the mystery is cleared up."