THE families of the lost Hull trawler Gaul have been officially informed that a number of bodies found buried in northern Russia two years ago are not from the vessel.
The Gaul, then a modern stern trawler sank in the Barents Sea in 1974 with the loss of her entire crew of 36 men and her disappearance has always remained something of a mystery. Since then there have been repeated suggestions that the ship, which was fishing in an active Cold War location , may have been sunk by the Soviets who thought it was spying.
Some of the crew relatives have always believed they were not told the entire truth about Britain’s worst trawler disaster in the past 40 years. However, the Cold War claims have always been strenuously denied by both the British and Russian authorities. A British inquiry ten years ago ruled that the ship sank because its hold became flooded during a severe storm.
The Russian authorities have carried out tests on a number of bodies found buried on the Rybachy peninsula. Humberside Police, which has been liaising with the families, said it had been told that DNA tests showed the remains “most likely belong to the Northern Russian or Finno-Ugric population”.
Police officers were preparing to travel to assist in the investigation but the force said “at this time, the news from Russia concludes our involvement in the matter”. Steve Holmes, the nephew of crew member Karl Straker, said he was unhappy that UK authorities were not directly involved in the DNA testing process.
He added: “They’re just taking their word for it. They were originally going to be sending a team across there to assess the DNA and to basically verify it and now they are not going to do that. The fact is we just want somebody to verify it.”
The human remains were believed to have been washed ashore sometime in 1975 and were buried by locals under rocks on the peninsula close to the Barents Sea.
The Marine Accident Investigation Branch carried out surveys of the Gaul after the wreck was found in 1997, and the remains of James Wales, Maurice Spurgeon, Stanley Collier and Clifford Briggs were found in 2002. The bodies of the other crew members remain missing.
Hull West MP Alan Johnson said he was still not satisfied as there was no British verification on the tests, and planned to seek more information from the Foreign Office