Seven men will face no further action following Nave Andromeda maritime security incident
Seven men, including two men who had previously been charged and who had appeared in court, will now face no further action as part of the Hampshire Constabulary led investigation into the maritime security incident that took place on board the Nave Andromeda off the coast of the Isle of Wight on Sunday 25 October.
According to the BBC, prosecutors dropped their case after evidence analysis “cast doubt” on whether the tanker was put in danger.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said initial reports had indicated there was a “real and imminent threat” to the vessel, but added mobile phone footage and witness accounts “could not show that the ship or crew were threatened” and there was no evidence the men had any intention to seize control of the vessel.
The CPS said the new evidence meant the ‘legal test’ for the offence was ‘no longer met’.
The Home Office says it is ‘disappointed’ by the CPS’s decision and that it’s working with prosecutors to ‘urgently resolve the issues raised by this case’.
“It is frustrating that there will be no prosecution in relation to this very serious incident and the British people will struggle to understand how this can be the case,” a Home Office spokesperson told the BBC.
The two men, Matthew John Okorie, 25 and Sunday Sylvester, 22, who were remanded and next due to appear at Southampton Crown Court on 29 January 2021, will now face no further action for an offence relating to conduct endangering ships under S.58 Merchant Shipping Act 1995.
“The CPS has a duty to keep all cases under continuous review and after additional maritime expert evidence came to light, we concluded there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction and discontinued the case,” says senior district crown prosecutor, Sophie Stevens.
Five other men, who were arrested on suspicion of seizing or exercising control of a ship by use of threats or force, remained on police bail until 25 January 2021. They will also now face no further action in relation to the Hampshire Constabulary led investigation. They will remain detained under immigration powers in accordance with published processes.
The 748ft-long (228m) ship left Lagos in Nigeria on 5 October bound for Southampton.
As it approached the Isle of Wight 20 days later, an emergency call came from the ship concerned about stowaways on board while the 22 crew members had locked themselves in the ship’s citadel – secure area.
The men had been found on the ship earlier in the voyage and the vessel had made unsuccessful attempts to dock in other ports.
It was reported the men became hostile as the tanker approached the UK – but the CPS said it was thought this may have occurred while the ship was outside of UK waters.
At the time the Ministry of Defence called the incident a “suspected hijacking” and said Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel authorised a special forces operation in response to a police request following a 10-hour stand-off.
In a nine-minute operation carried out under the cover of darkness, Special Boat Service commandos boarded the vessel and arrested the seven men, believed to be Nigerian nationals seeking asylum in the UK.
The Liberian-registered tanker later docked in Southampton.