23rd November 2021, 15:36
Day seven of an inquest into the deaths of two men following a collision at sea, saw a GDP radar operator and an RGP police sergeant appear at Supreme Court.
He said while a suspect RHIB was first seen in Spanish waters and the chase took place from south to north, he estimated that the engagement first took place within BGTW.
Mohamed Abdeslam Ahmed and Mustafa Dris Mohamed were killed after a a collision between their RHIB and an RGP vessel in the early hours of March 8th 2020.
The GDP officer was on duty on the night of the collision at Windmill Hill Signal Station. Giving evidence, the officer said a large, suspect RHIB was first spotted around nine miles north east of the rock, in Spanish waters, beside a merchant vessel. This followed information provided by the Guardia Civil.
He told the court a smaller RHIB was seen approaching the first vessel, which then returned to La Atunara port.
The officer said he later saw the larger vessel moving in a Southeasterly direction when the RGP vessel engaged in pursuit
He said he could not give their exact position as there was no radar track or AIS information being transmitted by either vessel, but he estimated that the RGP may have engaged just within the territorial limits of Gibraltar waters, before continuing north into Spanish waters.
Christopher Finch, representing the interests of the deceased, asked the officer about the RHIB’s AIS transmitter, which he said was functional and must have provided some information. The officer claimed this was the first he was hearing of this, and repeated that he saw no AIS data from either vessel on the night.
He also said the RGP vessel had its lights on during the chase.
Detective Sergeant Mark Garratt of the RGP gave evidence later in the morning, describing events on the night. He responded to a call at 4am and was at the scene when the RGP and Customs vessels returned to land.
He told the court the initial info he received was that the collision occurred 3 miles off Europa Point, within Gibraltar waters and that it was on this basis that the two surviving crew members from the RHIB were initially arrested.
He acknowledged that he learned this information was false. Both men were later released without charge.
DS Garratt was asked by Mr Finch whether he was aware of claims by the crew members that there had been four men aboard the RGP vessel.
He said he was present at the scene when the vessel had arrived and only counted three officers.