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24th November 2021, 19:10

Final submissions in inquest of two deaths following RGP collision

The court heard the final submissions on Wednesday in an inquest into the deaths of two Spanish men following a collision at sea involving an RGP vessel

Four men were aboard a RHIB being pursued by an RGP vessel in the early hours of March 8th 2020. The vessels collided and two men on the RHIB were killed; one died instantly, the other a short time later.

On Wednesday a statement from one of the surviving crew members was read out in court.

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Nourdan Dris said he and the three other men replaced the RHIB’s crew, and were told that one of the launch’s four engines was faulty. He said they had only food and petrol cannisters aboard as they left La Atunara in direction of Alcaidesa, well within Spanish waters. According to Mr Dris they had GPS and radar devices on board, not AIS. Five minutes after setting out they were warned by crew on another, nearby RHIB that an RGP vessel was coming out.

Mr Dris claimed the RGP vessel came at them head on, and when they turned to avoid it, It rammed them from behind. He says the RGP came directly at them two more times, without its lights on. He said he signalled to them that they were not carrying anything on the RHIB but they continued in pursuit, which surprised him.

Mr Dris claimed the RGP will have known something was wrong with their engines because of their relatively slow speed. He says he was looking back because he knew the RGP vessel was going to crash into them and this is why he was able to move in time while the two men in front of him took the brunt of the impact.

He said the pilot, Mohamed Ahmed’s face was split in two, but his uncle, Mustafa was still alive. Contrary to the evidence of the RGP Officers, Mr Dris claimed nobody came on board their vessel or offered any aid. He said they took around 45 minutes to get back to Gibraltar waters and that only then did the officers switch on the police lights. He said there were four police officers on the RGP vessel, while the RGP have maintained there were three, and only these three have given evidence.

Mr Dris said they were met by Customs officers, who were very kind and took his uncle to hospital, although he was later pronounced dead.

Mr Dris suffered multiple physical injuries in the collision, but described a severe psychological impact, saying he cries like a baby when he’s in the shower.

Referring to the serrated log defender attached to the front of the RGP vessel, he said the police use it to ram RHIBs out at sea.

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A second GDP officer who was on duty at Windmill Hill Signal station also gave evidence today. He said the RGP vessel did have its lights on throughout the chase and that he first noticed a fast moving craft 8 or 9 miles away from the rock, in Spanish waters. He said that the coxswain on the RGP vessel had said he was heading towards the limits of Gibraltar's territorial waters.

The Court also heard evidence from Detective Superintendent Gary Smith and Detective Sergeant Chris Griffith of the Metropolitan Police, members of the team that came to conduct an independent investigation into the collision.

It was revealed that an evidence bag containing Mr Dris’s phone had been opened. DS Griffith said evidence bags are meant to be sealed as soon as they are taken into possession, but he understood the RGP had attempted to access the phone, although he said they were unable to.

When he unlocked his phone during interview, Mr Dris claimed he had recorded videos during the pursuit, and believed the RGP had deleted them.

Mr Dris told DS Griffith he had sent media to friends and would be able to get copies of this footage although he never got back in touch.

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The jury has now heard all the evidence available in this inquest.

On Friday, the Coroner, Charles Pitto will provide jurors with a summary of the eight days worth of evidence before they retire to consider a verdict.