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Special forces stormed ship to end ‘hijacking by stowaways’

Mission accomplished: Members of the special forces secure the ship after resolving the alleged hijacking

FOUR stowaways tried to hijack a container ship and threatened to kill the crew in a desperate bid to reach Britain, a court heard.

The men, three from Nigeria and one from Liberia, allegedly armed themselves with metal poles and threw faeces at the crew after breaking out of quarantine on the vessel.

Jurors also heard one of the accused cut himself and threatened to ‘pass on a disease he carried to the crew unless their demands were met’.

Boarding party: Flashes of light show the moment troops storm the Grande Tema PICTURES: STEPHEN HUNTLEY/HVC

The drama only ended when a special forces team swooped on the ship under the cover of darkness as it sailed towards the Thames Estuary last December. Ishola Sunday, 28, Samuel Jolumi and Toheeb Popoola, both 27, and 20-year-old Joberto McGee all deny charges of attempting to hijack the ship, making threats to kill and affray.

Prosecutor Tony Badenoch QC said the foursome hid themselves on the 78,000 tonne Italian-registered merchant ship, called Grande Tema, when it set sail from Lagos, Nigeria, for Tilbury in Essex. Six days into the voyage, they were found on a lower deck by crew in the North Atlantic.

Two of the stowaways were hanging over railings near the propellers and the captain offered them food to get them to come fully on board, a court heard. They were all then placed in quarantine.

But after five days they broke free. They threatened to kill the crew and demanded that the ship head to the UK, Mr Badenoch told the Old Bailey. ‘To reinforce these demands the defendants armed themselves with metal poles, threw urine and faeces and, in at least one defendant’s case, they cut themselves,’ he added .

The crew notified authorities and the ship was held in UK waters until the safety of the crew was secured on December 22, he said.

‘That resolution was in the middle of the night at 10.55pm. That was done by the intervention of the special forces going to The Grande Tema to resolve the situation,’ Mr Badenoch added. ‘Once that had been done, with these four defendants detained, the ship was permitted to continue into Tilbury.’

The four men were arrested and brought ashore to be questioned by police and immigration officers, the court was told.

During interviews they claimed the same crew who had fed and clothed them had become the aggressors and attacked them.

They also alleged a fifth stowaway had fallen overboard on the voyage.

The trial continues.