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General News | Jan 5, 2005

Stowaways 'Probably Killed by Fumigation Gases'

Nick Foley, PA

Two young African stowaways who boarded a ship bound for Britain probably died when the hold where they were hiding was fumigated with toxic gases, an inquest heard today.

The decomposing bodies of the unknown pair were discovered as the ship's cargo of nuts was unloaded at Alexander Dock, Hull, on February 5 last year.

Hull Coroner's Court heard that the men had smuggled themselves on board the Danish owned vessel, the Cecdelta, in Ghana, along with a third stowaway who survived the trip.

The 17-year-old boy was discovered by the ship's crew just a few days after the vessel had left West Africa.

The teenager had hidden himself in the locker room and was passed over to immigration officials on arrival in Britain. Police believe he had no knowledge of the two other men.

Humberside Police launched an exhaustive investigation as they attempted to identify the pair, who had travelled with little more than a Bible and some photographs.

One of the men was found with a Liberian identity card in the name Aron Davis, aged 19, but the Liberian authorities were unable to confirm anyone of that name was missing.

The court also heard that the men, whose ages were never established, would have faced temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius as the ship left the African coast.

A post mortem examination failed to establish the cause of death because of the decomposition of their bodies but pathologist Dr Ian Richmond said it was likely that they died after the ship's hold was fumigated and sealed.

The toxic gasses, which are used primarily to kill rodents during voyages, could prove fatal to humans, he told the court.

Recording an open verdict on the stowaways, Coroner Geoffrey Saul said: “I don't feel the evidence has disclosed how it was that these two unfortunate gentlemen came by their death.

“Dr Richmond was not able to ascertain the cause of death due to the decomposition of the bodies but it may well be that they succumbed to the effects of the fumigation process.”

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