A UK court has found four individuals guilty of affray after they had illegally boarded a commercial vessel and threatened its crew in December 2018.
The defendants, who have been identified as Nigerian and Liberian nationals, are believed to have boarded the Grimaldi Lines Con-Ro vessel Grande Tema while it was berthed in Lagos, Nigeria.
The stowaways were discovered a few days into the vessel’s voyage to Tilbury and were placed into quarantine on December 15. Six days later, however, the stowaways were able to escape confinement and begin posing a greater danger to the 27-member crew.
The four individuals then began making threatening gestures and demanded that they be brought ashore in the UK. To further emphasise that they were serious about their demands, they allegedly took hold of some iron bars and even threw urine and faeces at the crew, who had locked themselves up in the bridge and sent out a distress call shortly after the trouble began.
Grande Tema entered a holding pattern in the Thames Estuary upon arriving in UK waters as the crew waited for assistance from the authorities.
The crisis was finally resolved on the late evening (local time) of December 21 after a team of Royal Marines commandos from the elite Special Boat Service (SBS) stormed the vessel and apprehended all four stowaways in an operation that lasted 25 minutes. No injuries were reported in the raid.
In addition to being convicted of affray, which carries a maximum prison sentence of three years for each count, two of the stowaways have been found guilty of making threats to kill. However, all four defendants have been acquitted of the more serious charge of attempted hijacking.
Sentencing is scheduled for January 3, 2020.
The prosecutors handling the case do not believe the incident was terror-related.
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