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Company boss guilty of failing to ensure safety of yacht which killed four sailors when it capsized

  • Watch Sally Simmonds full report below

A yachting company boss has been found guilty of failing to ensure the safety of the Cheeki Rafiki yacht in which four sailors were killed when it capsized in the mid-Atlantic.

A jury at Winchester Crown Court convicted Douglas Innes, of Whitworth Crescent, Southampton, for failing to operate the yacht in a safe manner.

His company, Stormforce Coaching Limited, was also convicted of failing to operate the yacht in a safe manner.

The jury has been discharged, but have failed to reach a verdict on manslaughter charges against Douglas Innes.

(L-R clockwise) Paul Goslin, James Male, Steve Warren and Andrew Bridge of the Cheeki RafikiPhoto: Family photos

Innes, 42, showed no emotion as the chairman of the 11-person jury announced the verdicts for the two charges which were reached by a majority of 10-1.

The trial has heard that the Cheeki Rafiki lost its keel as the crew were returning the 40ft yacht from Antigua to the UK in May 2014 when it got into trouble more than 700 miles from Nova Scotia.

The four crew members were skipper Andrew Bridge, 22, from Farnham in Surrey, with James Male, 22, from Southampton, as well as Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56, both from Somerset.

The US Coastguard was criticised for calling off its search after two days but after protests from family and friends and intervention by the British government, the search was restarted and the boat found but without any sign of the four men.

Nigel Lickley QC, prosecuting, told the jury that Innes and his company had been in charge of the Cheeki Rafiki, named after a character in the Lion King, for three years.

He said the yacht, which had grounded on three occasions in the past three years, had an undetected fault with bolts holding the three tonne keel to the hull which then failed causing it to fall off in bad weather during the voyage.

Mr Lickley said the yacht was not appropriately coded - licensed for the voyage - and Innes had chosen an "unsafe" northern route" because it was shorter and enabled the yacht to return back to the UK in time for booked charters of the vessel.

He said that Innes had a "duty of care" to the four men and "not to save money at every turn" and not to put "profit over compliance" with the yacht's coding, or commercial certificate, with the Yacht Designers and Surveyors Association (YDSA).

Mr Lickley said: "The yacht was therefore unsound, broken and unsafe before the four men left Antigua. The yacht had been neglected, not maintained and importantly, because the yacht was used commercially by Mr Innes and his company, not inspected as required."

The trial also heard that when Innes received an email from the skipper, Mr Bridge, headed as "urgent" he carried on drinking in a pub before only later alerting the Coastguard.

Innes told the court that any fault with the keel had lain hidden and would not necessarily have been found by an inspector and that he believed the yacht had not required the coding because he did not consider the journey to be a commercial voyage.

He also denied he had cut costs or tried to save time by sending the yacht back to the UK via the northern route.

Fruit packing manslaughter trial starts in Hampshire

The manager of a fruit packing operation in Hampshire has gone on trial accused of the manslaughter of two of his workers.

Scott Cain and Ashley Clarke, both in their twenties, died after falling unconscious in a building used to store apples at the Blackmoor Estate near Liss in Hampshire.

The building did not have enough oxygen in it and the prosecution says employees were "encouraged" to go in without breathing apparatus. Andrew Stocker, their manager, denies the charges. The trial continues. Andrew Pate sent this report from Winchester Crown Court.

Manager on trial after fruit packing firm deaths in Liss

The manager of a fruit packing operation has gone on trial accused of the manslaughter of two workers.

Scott Cain and Ashley Clarke died after going into an oxygen deprived unit at the Blackmoor Estate near Liss in Hampshire.

The prosecution says their manager, Andrew Stocker, "approved and encouraged" employees to go into the containers without breathing apparatus. He denies two charges.


Men jailed for 14 years for conspiracy to supply cocaine

Paul Neale and Adam St George have been sentenced to ore than 14 years in jail Credit: Hampshire Police

Two men have been sentenced to over 14 years in prison after an investigation into the supply of a class A drug.

Paul Neale, who is 26-years-old and from Sandhurst and 32-year-old Adam St George from Bracknell were found guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine in Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire.

Another man from Bracknell Christopher Evens was sentenced to a two year suspended sentence and fined £8000.

Two other men on the trial were found not guilty.

Speaking after the sentencing, officer in the case Detective Constable Frank Cregan from Hampshire Constabulary's Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said, "The sentences bring what has been a very detailed and challenging investigation to a close.

"In the course of our investigation we have seized £160,000 and just over five kilos of cocaine and amphetamine to the street value of £417,765."

Con man pilot sentenced to three years behind bars

A man who forged a pilot's licence so he could fly commercial aircraft into and out of Gatwick Airport has been jailed for three years. Sixty-one year old Michael Fay was a former American Air Force pilot. He moved to Britain and lived in Alton in Hampshire.

Fay was convicted at Winchester Crown Court of faking papers to get a job with a Libyan airline. Our presenter Amanda Piper spoke to our reporter Mel Bloor about the case.

Click here for the reaction from Hampshire Police, who were involved with the investigation.

Son jailed for life after murdering his mother

Leah Whittle was killed by her son Kieren Smith in July Credit: Dorset Police

Seventeen-year-old Kieren Smith has been jailed for life for the murder of his mother Leah Whittle. The teenager stabbed his mother 94 times at the home they shared in Weymouth in Dorset in July. Leah Whittle had moved back to the county from Yorkshire with her son after her marriage broke down.

During the eight-day trial the court heard that Smith had lied to police telling them his mother had been killed by drug dealers. The court also heard that the teenager had been expelled from school at the age of 14, and that he had spent the next two years alone in his room watching dvds.

In sentencing Smith to life imprisonment with a minimum tarrif of fifteen years before he becomes eligible for parole, Judge Guy Boney said:

"Your life revolved around watching DVDs alone in your room with an absence of emotional engagement.

"It is from that diet of constant DVDs that your fascination of knives came from. That kind of unhappy & unfulfilling life that you lived must, in fairness, be put against your background, that your parents separated when you were little more than a baby and your family life was almost non-existent.

"I accept that you are not by nature an emotional man, but you have shown not a smidgen of remorse."

Nicholas Haggan QC, who was defending Smith in court said the teenager's motive for the murder was unknown.

The QC said: "It's always difficult to give an explanation and in this particular case it's impossible. One will never know why the defendant did what he did. This is not an ordinary case; we accept it's very unusual for a young man to kill his mother."

Keiren George Smith jailed for life for matricide Credit: Dorset Police

Teenager jailed for life after killing his mother

A 17-year-old boy has been imprisoned for life for murdering his mother. Kieren Smith stabbed 42-year-old Leah Whittle 94 times at the flat they shared in Benville Road in Weymouth in Dorset, on 21st July.

Sentencing the teenager at Winchester Crown Court Judge Guy Boney said Smith would have to serve at least 15 years behind bars before being eligible for parole.

"You have been convicted of a deeply shocking and really utterlydreadful offence - that of killing your own mother in as brutal a way as can beimagined."You have cut short by many years the life of the very person who gave youlife in the first place and expressing your crime in that way tells everyone thetrue horror of what you did."

– Judge Guy Boney, Trial Judge, Winchester Crown Court

"This case involved a particularly horrific and sustained attack on a woman who was unable to defend herself. This is a very tragic case where a young man, through his own violentactions, has killed his mother.

"He now has to face the consequences of these actions as well as to live withthe loss of his mother. Our sympathy is with Leah Whittle's family and friends who are still coming to terms with their loss."

– Detective Inspector Marcus Hester, Dorset Police
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