Now Police investigate theft of Planet

May 2017 - Canal & River Trust is being investigated by Gloucestershire Police for theft of the Mersey Bar light vessel 'Planet', reports Allan Richards

This follows C&RT's announcement that it had sold the vessel for £12,500, a fraction its true value ( Lightship 'Planet' sold for just £12,500 ).

On Sunday 23 April, Alan Roberts made an unsuccessful attempt to repossess his ship at Sharpness where it has been lying since the Trust forcibly seized it and removed it from Liverpool.

The shipyard was notified in advance by Tony Dunkley who is representing Alan Roberts. He emailed Steve Beacham operations director of Sharpness Shipyard as follows -

“Further to our telephone conversation of yesterday evening following up your earlier e-mail, I write to confirm that the owner of the above-named vessel, Mr Alan Roberts of 1 Day Street, Liverpool, L13 2DS, will be visiting your premises at Sharpness today, Sunday 23 April 2017, in order to repossess and inspect the ship.

“It would seem, from our recording of yesterday's telephone conversation, that you have documentation and/or paperwork from C&RT, the organization responsible for the unlawful removal of "Planet" from the river Mersey/Liverpool, instructing and authorizing the subsequent unlawful impoundment in your yard at Sharpness. Please arrange for copies of this documentation/paperwork to be available for the ship's owner, Mr Roberts, later today.

“You also made reference to an unspecified number of Invoices ('bills' was the actual word you used) which you stated would have to be settled - quote "before the owner can have his ship back". Please ensure that copies of these invoices, or bills, are also available to be given to Mr Roberts.

“In light of your generally unhelpful and threatening manner in the course of yesterday's telephone conversation we are requesting that Gloucestershire Police attend today's boarding and repossession.”

It is interesting to note that Mr Beacham seemed to accept that Mr Roberts was 'Planets' lawful owner ...

Despite Mr Roberts having ID and papers proving ownership, which were shown to the police, Steve Beacham, speaking from behind locked shipyard gates refused to look at these. He also denied that he had any of the documents or paperwork he had previously referred to and refused to party entry.

On Monday this week, after being told by C&RT that they had sold 'Planet' for £12,500 (the cost of a Springer, as one boater put it) Alan Roberts reported the matter as to Gloucestershire Police as theft -

“Dear Sir or Madam,

“You will find from your records for Sunday 23 April 2017 that I made an unsuccessful attempt to repossess my ship, ex-Lightvessel LV23 "Planet", which is being held without lawful authority or my consent by Sharpness Shipyard and Drydock Ltd at their yard in Sharpness Dock, Gloucestershire. The attempted repossession was attended at my request by PC Simon Greenfield, who was present throughout.

“The ship was forcibly taken from my possession in Liverpool at 0830hrs on 19 September 2016 by an employee of the Canal & River Trust, a Mr Andrew Goudie acting on the instructions of another C&RT employee, Ms Chantelle Seaborn, and two men from a local security and stewarding company posing as 'Enforcement Agents' and claiming to be seizing the vessel pursuant to a 'High Court Warrant' and in lieu of a debt in respect of unpaid berthing fees.

“No Warrant, Court Order or any form of documentation was produced or handed over at the time of the forcible seizure or since, and it is now known that no such Warrant or Court Order had been issued at the time, or has been issued since. The ship was subsequently delivered into the keeping of Mr S.Beacham at Sharpness Shipyard & Drydock Ltd who, in addition to refusing entry into the yard to board and inspect the vessel at the time of the attempted repossession on 23 April 2017, was unable to produce any form of documentation authorizing him to be in possession of my ship, and declined to either examine or accept copies of my ship's papers as proof of my ownership and title.

“The situation with regard to my ship became more serious and urgent on the afternoon of Friday last when a third employee of C&RT, a Ms Thami Nomvete, informed me by e-mail that my ship had been sold to an unnamed and undisclosed third party.

“I believe that from the very outset in September of last year it was the intention of at least the three above named employees of Canal & River Trust to permanently deprive me of my ship and that in light of the above-mentioned e-mail they have now demonstrated and proved that intent. I am, therefore, now formally reporting this matter as a theft.”

The report has been given a crime number and Gloucestershire Police say it is under investigation. However, it is thought that the police might decide that this is a civil matter in which case, Mr Roberts says that he intends to bring a private criminal prosecution for theft.

However, there are fears that ,even if Alan Roberts does bring a private criminal prosecution, the CPS may take it over and decide not to proceed with it.

Photos: (1st) Alan Roberts watching his lightship being towed away, (2nd) NW C&RT Waterways Manager Chantelle Seaborne - named in complaint to police.

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