Stowaways convicted after threatening ships crew and flinging human waste at them

20 November 2019, 10:55

The Grande Tema which was stormed by special forces
The Grande Tema which was stormed by special forces. Picture: PA/CPS

By Maddie Goodfellow

Four stowaways have been found guilty of affray after they snuck on to a container ship and threatened crew members before throwing human waste at them.

The four men, from Nigeria and Libya, demanded to be taken to the UK after making cut-throat gestures at crew members of an Italian merchant ship in December last year.

The crew endured fourteen-hour ordeal which only ended when special forces swooped in on the ship at night and rescued the sailors.

Around 25 SBS commandos from X Squadron abseiled onto the deck of the stormed the Grande Tema then detained the stowaways.

No one was injured as they regained control of the ship in a 25-minute operation. 

The SBS stormed the ship from an helicopter
The SBS stormed the ship from an helicopter. Picture: PA

Toheeb Popoola, 27, Joberto McGree, 20, Samuel Jolumi, 27, and Ishola Sunday, 27, were all cleared of attempting to hijack but found guilty of affray.

Popoola was also found guilty on one count of making a threat to kill, while McGee was convicted on two counts of the same charge.

The men secretly boarded the Grimaldi Group ship in Lagos, Nigeria, before attempting to gain entry to its bridge by striking windows and shouting at crew members when the ship was seven miles from Ramsgate, Essex.

Once they gained access to the ship, three of the crew members were threatened, and the men attempted to intimidate the crew by smearing windows in faeces, blood and urine.

Negotiators made contact with the men during the afternoon and a boarding party later detained the men, who were arrested once the ship docked at Tilbury.

Giving evidence, the Italian captain Antonio Raggi told jurors of his fears for the safety of the 27-strong crew.

He said: "For me, these guys could be terrorists, Boko Haram, I don't know.

"They come on board, they break the safety, the security of the vessel.

"My problem is if these guys have put something in a part of the vessel and after are going to come and get weapons."

Grande Tema
Grande Tema. Picture: CPS

Investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Julie Gowen said: “As the cargo ship approached the UK’s coastline, the stowaways escaped from an area where they had been secured by the crew for their own safety.

“Popoola and McGree made threats to kill people on board the ship.

“The crew followed protocol and retreated to the bridge where they secured themselves, thus ensuring there was no physical confrontation.

“As a result of their actions no harm came to any party involved.

She continued: “We worked with partners agencies to safely bring the boat to shore and secure the arrest of all four men.

“I would like to thank the crew for their support during this investigation. I’d also like to thank the shipping company, international freight shipping line Grimaldi Group.

“These offences involved defendants from other countries and the sensible actions of the crew ensured not only the safety of all those on board but that of other vessels in the immediate waterways.

“We have carried out a robust investigation into this incident and today four men have been convicted of their actions.”

Three of the defendants, who are being held at Belmarsh prison, have outstanding claims to stay in the UK.

The men are due to be sentenced on Friday 3 January.