UK inquest says submarine not cause of 2004 sinking of French boat

Five French fishermen lost their lives when their boat, the Bugaled Breizh, suddenly sank off the coast of Cornwall. Speculation that a military submarine was involved has now been ruled out by a British court

A fishing boat
A British judge has ruled out the involvement of a military submarine in the sinking of a French fishing boat in 2004. The above picture is representative and does not show the Bugaled Breizh

A British inquest into the sinking of a French fishing boat in 2004, which caused the death of five people, concluded yesterday (November 5) that the incident was the result of a fishing accident and not caused by nearby military submarines.

The Bugaled Breizh went down on January 15, 2004, 23km off the coast of Cornwall’s Lizard peninsula.

The UK inquest, which began on October 4, has found that the vessel was most likely to have sunk due to fishing equipment getting caught on the bottom of the sea, causing the boat to tilt to one side and take on water.

This is the same conclusion arrived at by the French Bureau d'enquêtes accidents-mer in 2008.

Families of the five victims, though, maintain that the boat went down due to nearby military submarine activity.

There were three submarines - Dutch, German and British - operating within 100 nautical miles of the vessel at the time, the British inquest heard. However, they were not close enough to interfere with the fishing boat.

UK judge Nigel Lickley QC, who presided over the inquest, dismissed this theory, the BBC reported.

"The Bugaled Breizh had disappeared in a few minutes leaving very little behind. I can understand how thoughts can develop afterwards," he said

"I have no doubt that the fact a submarine was seen at the scene - doing nothing other than assisting in the search - caused speculation to run as to a submarine being involved in the sinking.

"For the avoidance of doubt, I am satisfied that no other identified Allied submarine of any type or class was in the area at the time and that includes submarines from the US," he said.

"So far as the idea still persists today, I reject it as wholly fanciful and unfounded."

In May 2014, the French justice system concluded that neither the fishing accident or submarine hypothesis could be confirmed.

The case was dismissed and re-affirmed by the Rennes Court of Appeal a year later.

The Court of Cassation validated this judgment in 2016 and the case has since been closed in France.

Of the five French victims who died when the boat sank, only the bodies of Patrick Gloaguen, Yves Gloaguen and Pascal Le Floch were found. The bodies of Georges Lemétayer and Eric Guillamet were never found, and they have been classified as missing at sea.

Related stories:

UK inquest into mysterious sinking of French fishing boat begins

Final report of UK inquest into sinking of French fishing boat delayed