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HMS Hermes shipwreck: Jury considers verdict as men accused of plundering warship sunk in Straits of Dover

By Paul Hooper

The jury in the trial of two men accused of plundering a British warship sunk more than 100 years ago has retired to consider its verdicts.

HMS Hermes went down in the Straits of Dover in 1914 after being struck by a German torpedo.

Now a jury at Canterbury Crown Court is to decide if John Blight – owner of a boat called De Bounty – and diver Nigel Ingram were involved in the commercial exploitation of the wreck.

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

Ingram,57, from London Road, Teynham and Blight, 56, from Winchelsea have each denied four fraud charges.

Ingram has also denied a fifth charge of possessing £16,000 in criminal property.

Prosecutor Ian Hope told the jury: “We say they did it deliberately and dishonestly... to make money by selling it.”

In his concluding speech, he said the two men had later fallen out, describing it as a kind of “mutiny on De Bounty."

“We say they did it deliberately and dishonestly... to make money by selling it...” - Prosecutor Ian Hope

The prosecutor said that people finding items from sunken ships had a lawful duty to report them to the Receiver of Wrecks.

He alleged that the French authorities had caught the two men in Blight’s boat De Bounty in the vicinity of the wreck of HMS Hermes.

He told the jury how the Maritime and Coastguard Agency spoke with Ingram who was given a warning about not declaring salvage to the Receiver of Wrecks.

Ingram later completed an official form in regard to three port holes from fishing vessels and china.

But in 2015 the French authorities had boarded Blight’s ship, which had stopped near the wreck of HMS Hermes.

Later there was a search of Ingram’s home when about 100 items were discovered, including ships’ bells, a torpedo hatch, china and metal ingots.

Officials also found a note book, entitled De Bounty Diver Recovery which was alleged to have included items sold and their estimated prices from the sale of metal to APM Metals in Sittingbourne.

Mr Hope said that from May 2012 and December 2015 Ingram had made 35 visits to the scrap metal dealer.

“What we say is he was taking things from the bottom of the sea and committing fraud, " he alleged.

He claimed that officers also exhumed Ingram’s computer revealed photos of Ingram posing with large items of wreck.

And in his safe officers found £16,000 in cash, which the prosecution claimed, was some of the money received from selling the metal.

In October 2015, both men were arrested when Ingram allegedly told officers: “It has nothing to do with me... it’s my boss, John”.

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