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Diver Nigel Ingram denies taking items from wreck HMS Hermes

By Paul Hooper

The Teynham frogman accused of fraud over the remains of a sunken British WWI battlecruiser has admitted he did dive onto the wreck.

But Nigel Ingram told a jury he didn't take items from HMS Hermes which sank in 1914, killing 44 people.

The 58-year-old, from London Road, was spotted by French authorities on board pal John Blight’s boat “de Bounty” off the coast of Calais, where Hermes settled.

A German U-boat. Picture: Wikicommons
A German U-boat. Picture: Wikicommons

His home was later searched when items of wreck were discovered inside the house and in the rear of the premises.

The jury at Canterbury Crown Court heard that British law requires divers to report all items recovered from wrecks, both in UK’s coastal waters or brought into the country.

Ingram and Blight, 56, from Winchelsea, have each denied four fraud charges and Ingram has pleaded not guilty of possessing £16,000 in criminal property.

Ingram was had been cross-examined for a third day about the dive over the historic wreck in 2014 when they were boarded by the French Authorities.

“It was a recreation dive and if anything was taken (from the Hermes) it wasn’t me!”

A member of a French diving club, who regularly went to the wreck of the Hermes, reported items going missing around the same time.

Ingram admitted he had been “downright dishonest” when he was later quizzed by police, claiming he did it because he was frightened.

“I admit I was being evasive in my answers...I admit I was lying.”

Police later found a notebook of finds he had made which , the prosecution claimed, showed he had taken a condenser “from Hermese sic”.

But Ingram told the jury the condenser had come from a different wreck some miles away which he and Blight had salvaged on the day French authorities had questioned them about the Hermes.

Earlier he was quizzed about his company Aqua Elevation, which offered, according to a website: “Diving for personal pleasure..allowing recovery of items from ship wrecks. These artefacts are restored to their former glory and sold online to customers, which include interior designer and collectors”.

Ingram told the jury he had “dived the Hermes three or four times" ..adding "but I did not bring anything up .”

Prosecutor Ian Hope claimed the pair undertook “an organised, professional and commercial salvaging operation..including attacks on historic wreck sites and war graves for years.”

He claimed that when the French authorities spoke to them in September 2014 they had been targeting the Hermes.

Royal Navy battlecruiser HMS Hermes was sunk in the Straits of Dover by a German U boat in 1914.

The warship, was hit by a torpedo off the coast of Calais by U-27 soon after the start of the war in October 1914.

The wreck was designated a protected site because of the 44 people who died when it sank.

The trial continues.

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