Four stowaways tried to hijack a container ship and threatened to kill members of the crew in a desperate bid to reach the UK from Africa, the Old Bailey has heard.
The men, three from Nigeria along with one Liberian, are said to have armed themselves with metal poles and lobbed poo after breaking out of quarantine aboard the 78,000 tonne Grande Tema. Jurors were told one even cut themselves threatening that ‘they would pass on disease that they carried to the crew unless their demands were met’.
A Special forces crew swooped on the ship in the Thames Estuary to rescue the sailors under cover of darkness following the alleged stand-off in December last year. Samuel Jolumi, 27, Ishola Sunday, 28, Toheeb Popoola, 27, and Joberto McGee, 20, have denied attempting to hijack the ship, making threats to kill, and affray.
Prosecutor Tony Badenoch QC said the four men had hidden themselves aboard the international merchant ship voyaging between West Africa and various European ports including Tilbury in Essex.
Jurors heard the container vessel operated by the Grimaldi Group is heavier than the UK’s largest aircraft carrier, and only slightly shorter in length than the Houses of Parliament.
‘As you will no doubt be aware migrants are leaving Africa and using all manner of different routes across land and sea to reach Europe and of course the UK here in Europe,’ Mr Badenoch said.
He said the four men stowed away on the lower deck of the Grande Tema in Lagos, Nigeria, where they hid for many days of the voyage. When the crew discovered them, they were placed into quarantine, jurors heard. But Mr Badenoch said: ‘Five days later they broke free from the room in which they had been detained, and threatened to kill the crew members whilst making demands that the ship should make its way to the United Kingdom.
‘In order to reinforce these demands the defendants armed themselves with metal poles, they threw urine and faeces, and in at least one defendant’s cases, they cut themselves. ‘The crew believed that the reason for the cut was a form of threat, that they would pass on disease that they carried to the crew unless their demands were met.’
The incident was reported to British authorities and the ship was held off-shore in UK waters until the situation on board was resolved and the safety of the crew secured. Mr Badenoch said: ‘That resolution was in the middle of the night at 10.55pm.
‘That was done by the intervention of the Special Forces going to The Grande Tema to resolve the situation. ‘Only once that had been done, with these four defendants detained, was the ship permitted to continue its voyage into Tilbury. ‘The defendants were then brought ashore, spoken to by both police and immigration officers, before being charged with these serious offences.’
Source: Metro Online