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Inquiry continues into Bugaled Breizh sinking

By This is Cornwall  |  Posted: November 28, 2009

The wreck of the Bugaled Breizh lifted to the surface by a salvage vessel

A FRENCH inquiry into the deaths of five fishermen when their trawler sank off the Cornish coast more than five years ago is to continue, a court in Brittany has ruled.

Relatives of the dead fishermen have repeatedly claimed the Bugaled Breizh fell victim to a submarine which became entangled in its trawl cables and pulled it under in less than a minute when it capsized off the Lizard on January 15, 2004.

However, the Appeal Court in Rennes has ordered new investigations by Dominique Salles, a submarine expert who told investigating judges that the Bugaled was "most probably" sunk by a nuclear attack submarine taking part in a Thursday "war games" exercise.

Monsieur Salles concluded that only a high-powered nuclear sub would have been capable of dragging down the trawler in 40 seconds after snagging her trawl.

Now Monsieur Salles will attempt to trace the submarine involved by attempting to establish which nuclear subs were in the area. He will announce his findings by the end of March next year.

The Court's decision to prolong the investigation is seen by families of the lost crew, MPs in Brittany and thousands of campaigning supporters, as a victory.

The original judges on the case based in Quimper, Brittany, admitted defeat, recommending that the investigation be wound up with no guilty party traced.

In a letter to the families and the owner of the Bugaled, one of the judges said that during four years of investigations the navies of England, France, Holland and Germany hid behind official secrets red tape, dragged their heels in providing submarine position documents and then only sent those that it suited them to send.

Judge Melanie Gehin told the grieving families her powers were limited and the activities of submarines were hidden by official secrecy rulings.

She did not specifically name the Royal Navy but clearly pointed an accusing finger at defence ministries of countries whose submarines took part in the regular 'Thursday War' exercise, on January 15, 2004.

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