Culpability?

n 1991, two years after the tragedy, the captain of the Bowbelle, Douglas Henderson - who had admitted to drinking five pints of beer during the afternoon of the accident -was tried for failing to keep a proper lookout. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch found fault was due to poor visibility from each ship’s wheelhouses and that a lack of clear instructions to the look-out on the bow of the Bowbelle contributed to the tragedy. Captain Henderson was charged with failing to keep an adequate lookout, twice.

On both occasions, the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict. The coroner, Dr Paul Knapman, opened and adjourned the inquests pending criminal proceedings. After two juries were deadlocked Henderson was formally acquitted. Friends and family of the victims of the tragedy were outraged by the original verdicts that they formed the Marchioness Action Group. Through publicity and pressure they eventually persuaded Labour MP John Prescott, Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions to launch a formal investigation into the incident.