Police Chief Gives Updates On Haut Du Mont And L'Ecume Operations

Police Chief Robin Smith has revealed his officers have followed more than 1,000 lines of enquiry in the investigations into the two separate disasters that hit Jersey within days in December.

Mr Smith has been speaking for the first time this year about the investigations into the fatal explosion at Haut Du Mont flats and the collision at sea that led to the sinking of the L'Ecume II fishing trawler.

The tragedies happened two days apart - on the 8 and 10 December 2022 - and claimed 13 lives.

Updates on Operation Spire (Haut du Mont) and Operation Nectar (L'Ecume II) have been limited in recent weeks while the funerals of the deceased have been taking place.

Mr Smith says investigating officers expect to have recovered all evidence from the site of the Pier Road explosion by the end of March.

27 full time officers and staff continue to work on the case, in addition to fire and explosion experts, gas experts, archaeologists, and structural engineers.

The investigation team has carried out more than 800 lines of enquiry, taken more than 300 statements, and collected more than 600 exhibits.

Led by Senior Investigating Officer Alison Fossey, they are working to establish the cause of the explosion that killed ten residents, an to determine if there is a criminal case to answer for gross negligence or manslaughter, or offences under Health and Safety legislation.

Key pieces of evidence are being sent to one of the world's leading health and safety science research centre - the HSE Science and Research Centre in Buxton - to be examined.

Senior Investigating Officer, Alison Fossey, says the progress of the investigation at the Haut du Mont site over the last few weeks has been very good.

"Although we’re keeping an open mind, our working hypothesis is a gas explosion.

Our investigation team is working alongside a variety of experts to understand exactly how that has happened."

From next Monday (27 February) police officers will be replaced by private security guards at the cordon and gates will be installed.

Disaster recovery experts expect to remain there for another two months continuing their work to return belongings to displaced tenants and bereaved families.

Mr Smith was at Haut du Mont this week to see that work:

"There has been a remarkable effort to sift through every single piece of rubble, working with a company called Go Crisis, which was brought in by government. 

We will provide every item of property we find - that will all be properly catalogued - and I hope that will provide some comfort to them."

Meanwhile, Operation Nectar continue  -  investigating the collision at sea between Condor's Commodore Goodwill and the L'Ecume II fishing trawler on 8 December.

 The damaged Goodwill in port following the collision in the early hours of the 8 December.

The bodies of crewmen Larry Simyunn and Jervis Baligat were recovered but skipper Michael Michieli has not been found.

The government announced this week that the wreckage of the vessel will be raised from the seabed in the hope it will uncover more evidence of what happened.

380 lines of enquiry have been recorded - with half complete.  The team has registered 400 documents, 270 photos and pieces of CCTV footage and 150 items of property.

Four police investigators from the Metropolitan, West Midlands, Yorkshire, and Staffordshire Police forces have been enlisted to support the enquiry.

Senior Investigating Officer, Andrew Shearwood says the team has been working hard to secure evidence, technical data, CCTV footage, and witness accounts.

“Our investigation team will work closely with Ports of Jersey and government over the coming weeks to determine how the raising of the wreck will fit into our investigation timeline.”

Police Chief Officer Robin Smith has commended the work of everyone involved in the investigations and says there will be many months of work ahead.

"Of course everybody wants to know when - and when I speak to senior investigating officers we talk about how long, without wanting to put them under any additional pressure - because what I want is it to be thorough, careful, methodical in gathering that information, those facts, and indeed that evidence."

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