Almost eighteen years after the tragedy, families’ hopes of finally knowing the truth are reborn. British justice is looking, from Monday, October 4, on the mysterious sinking of the Bugaled-Breizh, a French trawler which sank in less than a minute in 2004 off the coast of England, carrying its five crew members to the bottom. Since the accident, the families of the five Breton sailors believe that the trawler sank after being hooked by a military submarine. This hypothesis could never be confirmed by the French justice at the end of a very long, inconclusive procedure.
The public inquiry is scheduled until October 22 in the UK capital. During three weeks of hearings, the High Court of Justice of London will hear some forty testimonies – sailors, rescuers, maritime experts, military – to try to explain the circumstances of this tragedy. The families of the victims are also invited to speak at the opening.
On January 15, 2004, the Bugaled-Breizh (“Children of Brittany”, in Breton), a trawler from Loctudy, in Finistère, had sunk in less than a minute in rather good weather conditions, off Cornwall (south-west of England). The crew had been swept away by the bottom. The boat sank in an area where military exercises of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Royal Navy were taking place or were planned, involving submarines. Only the bodies of Patrick Gloaguen, Yves Gloaguen and Pascal Le Floch had been found – the first in the wreck during its refloating, the other two in British waters – and it is on the death of the latter two that the focus is the British survey. Georges Lemétayer and Eric Guillamet had been reported missing at sea.
“Justice” and “responsibility”
The aim of the proceedings in the United Kingdom is to clarify the causes of death, without, however, pronouncing any convictions. “London justice is devoting three weeks of hearing to this case, it will get to the bottom of things and never the hope of the families, who have never given up, has never been so great”, confided Dominique Tricaud, lawyer for the children of Georges Lemétayer.
In a column published by The world, Gaspard de Monclin, lawyer for the families of the victims, denounced the lack of cooperation from the various governments involved and demanded the lifting of the secrecy surrounding NATO’s maneuvers. “The bereaved families are not crying for revenge, they are asking for justice. Bereaved families do not want to see men in prison, they expect responsibility. The bereaved families do not want the repair of an irreparable accident, they hope for the truth ”, he insisted.
A long-awaited testimony will be that, on October 12, of the former commander of the British nuclear submarine HMS Turbulent, Andrew Coles, building suspected of having played a role in the sinking. The British Ministry of Defense and the Royal Navy have denied any involvement of a British submarine.
In 2016, the French justice had definitively ended its investigation in this case, unable to decide between the hypothesis of a submarine and that, put forward ten years earlier by the French office of investigations into the events. sea, a fishing accident. Other hypotheses had been mentioned and then abandoned, such as the collision with a cargo ship.
In England, a procedure had been launched before the British justice, in Truro, in Cornwall, because of the two bodies recovered by the English. It had been postponed in 2020, due in particular to the pandemic, before being transferred to London. At a preliminary hearing in March, the judge in charge of the case, Nigel Lickley, assured him that he would lead a “Full, rigorous and fair investigation”.