The Marchioness Disaster – 20th August 1989 – London, England

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    Tom Dalpra





    Here’s the Wonk on it:

    Straight off the bat this set-up caught my eye.

    ”the boat was hired for a party organised by photographer agent Jonathan Phang to celebrate the 26th birthday of Antonio de Vasconcellos, who worked in a merchant bank. The pair were good friends and business partners in a photographic agency”

    Well, not to distrust all photography agencies, but, we’ve seen a few dodgy ones knocking about in the world. Merchant bankers, the same deal.

    de Vasconcellos had a Portuguese background.

    ”Phang organised a three-part celebration: an eight-person dinner in a flat on Meard Street (only two of the diners survived); a birthday cake and champagne celebration for a group of 30 at the flat; and the party on the Marchioness. Many of those at the party were also in their twenties; some were former student friends and others worked in the fashion industry.”

    There’s a quite famous direct link in Future England Rugby Captain Lawrence Dellaglio’s older sister was among the victims. He began his professional career the year after the tragedy as an 18 year old.


    I want to make it clear that I’m making no assumptions at all at this point. As it stands it was a terrible tragedy, as far as I know.
    In about 2000 the Katrina and the Waves manager asked me to sing on a song about The Marchioness Tragedy. My good friend , the guitarist from The Waves, had written it and there was some kind of news of an appeal in the papers.
    (Katrina had gone by then ).

    We sent it to this guy and we were told that the relatives had listened to it and they liked it.
    There was only one reported quibble with the lyric ‘Good-time girls’ in reference to the young ladies (Dellaglio’s sister had been a ballerina, for example, so it made some sense to me) but then I heard no more.

    What I’m saying is I’ve sung a song about The Marchioness Tragedy in memory of the victims.

    If this is a psyOp, then I’ve had a go at psyOp promo here.


    Now this survivor story made me wonder.


    It turns out this survivor is a scuba diver/photographer.
    His office is covered in underwater photography! How….apt?

    Perhaps his affinity with the water was why he survived?

    I dunno, I just google survivors and the very first one I come to is a very keen diver and has his own photographic agency.

    His story, as presented here in The Guardian, feels like cheap fiction with it’s twists and turns. Passages like:
    ”I had Helen by the hand. She was screaming and swearing at me, barely able to stay afloat. I tried to swim away from the dredger, dragging her along, but then there was a sensation of something around my legs. I thought I was caught on something and I started to panic. I put my head under water and saw my friend Tony holding on to my thighs, trying to pull himself up. We were face to face and I could see the terror in his eyes. He was being dragged down by the boat, or by the current… I don’t know. But I couldn’t do anything and I couldn’t let go of my girlfriend. And then he was gone and we were alone in the water.”

    So he put his head underwater and saw it was his mate Jeff? On a dark night, in the Thames? This is not convincing testimony at all – there’s artistic license being used here, I reckon. It’s the first survivor I’ve looked at and it looks a little dodgy. But it’s only one article.

    As I said, this really is a tentative exploration.
    I was put onto it by Nemesis’ post on The Grandmother of School Shootings / Geldof thread regarding Paula’s coroner.

    I think it’s worth a respectful look.



    I didn’t find the OS very convincing when I briefly looked at it. A contemporary report is here,5140333

    One stands out – or jumps out immediately:

    Art student Mike Mosbacher, 22, dived out of an open window on the top deck when he saw the barge coming. It hit us in the side, smashed into us and went straight over us

    Aparently the top deck was sheared off, according to divers [AP story]


    Police Commander John Purnell, speaking at Scotland Yard, said the there were 26 people known dead, including one woman found upstream. Most of the dead were teen-agers or in their 20s, he said.

    Earlier, police said 29 bodies had been found and there were 87 survivors. There was no explanation given for the discrepancy.


    Survivors of the crash said the Marchioness was hit from behind by the barge, turned sideways and then nearly sheared in half by the much larger vessel.

    ”Suddenly, it rammed us again, our boat was run over and we were underneath the water,” said Rod Lay, 26, who managed to swim to the surface, where he was rescued and taken to a nearby hospital.
    Most of the survivors were taken to three London hospitals, examined and released. ”Most had minor injuries, and the majority were quite emotionally shocked,” said Dr. Paul Davies, a surgeon at St. Thomas’s Hospital.
    [why is a surgeon commenting on shock and minor injuries?]


    8 – page Marine Accident report summary here

    Click to access cms_resources.cfm

    source [2000]:

    BBC video here
    check “silk cut” witness at 0.50; I think the “window diver” is at 1:45 in the Love Love Love t-shirt.Bodybag shot at 4:50

    Thatcher taken to the scene….”the emergency services had all been magficent” she said

    The huge Thames Barrier, built across the river near its mouth to control seasonal flooding, was lowered to hold back the tide and ease the treacherous conditions under which rescuers worked. [Aug 20] – AP

    The treacherous conditions made the search for bodies difficult and dangerous. Divers and salvage experts also battled the currents to raise the Marchioness late today. [Aug 21 NYT

    Question – where did the superstructure which was sheared away go to? Where are photos of it?

    I’m not expert in marine accidents but there just seems to be a small dent in the pleasure cruiser and the rear upper deck is, as they say, sheared off.

    The window frames seem intact.

    We also need to investigate the popularity of this technique:

    Some of the families had to come to terms with the controversial decision by Westminster Coroner Dr Paul Knapman to cut off the hands of more than 20 of the victims for identification purposes – an action criticised by Lord Justice Clarke in his subsequent 2001 report into the circumstances surrounding the collision.


    The disaster inquiry in London heard on Friday that the severed hands of Elsa Garcia were found four years after the tragedy on the River Thames in August 1989.

    Inner London coroner Dr Paul Knapman
    Dr Knapman apologised to victims’ families

    A member of the coroner’s staff cleaning a fridge found them by accident, wrapped in a bag.

    like you do at a mortuary every 4 years or more…

    see also

    Information about the victims’ hands having been withheld, it is perhaps not surprising that relatives were refused the opportunity to see their loved ones to pay their last respects. Some never again saw the people they had lost.

    So did any relatives see the victims of a drowning where bodies had allegedly been in the water for a day, not weeks or months?

    keepng the official narrative warm – or frozen.

    Tom Dalpra

    Ah, there he is! ‘Nap Hand’ Knapman.

    A handy man to have on the team, clearly!

    psyOp coroner for:
    The Iranian Embassy Siege,
    The Libyan Embassy Drama,
    The Clapham Rail Crash,
    The Diana Death
    and 7/7 amongst others if anyone didn’t know.

    Nap Hand Knapman – A safe pair of hands!

    He apologised to relatives here for cutting the hands off the victims to keep for ‘identification’???!!!


    Now The Marchioness,



    and AFTER:


    Not only are the window frames intact ( below), as you say xilef, so are some of the windows…

    We can understand what is supposed to have been ‘ sheared off’. But is this damage consistent with a boat that sunk immediately?
    I’m fairly inexperienced with boats too, but we have to have a look at it 🙂


    EDIT: irritating error in my original post I can’t fix now. In analysis, I called the friend clinging to the survivors legs ‘Jeff’, but it was a ‘Tony’.


    Tom Dalpra

    In our exploration of another 1989 incident, the Hillsborough Disaster, it emerged that the youngest victim of that tragedy was a 10 year old – the cousin of future Liverpool and England Soccer captain Steven Gerard ( an 8 year old at that time).


    Gerrard, subsequently touted as a bit of a child prodigy, then duly rose to be Liverpool and England Captain and have a very successful career.
    Universally liked, it seems to me, he, and ‘they’ have played a blinder.

    (Gerrard ( not for the first time) supplied a questionable back-pass to send in his opponent Suarez to score a goal that went a long way to sending England home from the last World Cup. But still he’s forgiven. )

    Steven Gerard looks to be an agent, long-sponsored by big power, deliberately linked to Hillsborough so as to keep that op ‘alive’ through the years.
    Living breathing promotion.

    From Gerrards 2006 Sports Book of the Year:

    “I play for Jon-Paul.” Gerrard’s cousin, Jon-Paul Gilhooley, was killed in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, when Gerrard was eight. Jon-Paul, who was 10 when he died, was the youngest of the 96 victims of the tragedy “It was difficult knowing one of your cousins had lost his life”, Gerrard said. “Seeing his family’s reaction drove me on to become the player I am today.”

    Now, what about the youngest victim of this other major 1989 disaster, The Marchioness?
    It was none other than the, before mentioned, 19 year old, Francesca Dellaglio, the sister of then 17 year old Lorenzo Bruno Nero Dellaglio, the Irish/Italian stallion who went on to be a mainstay ( and captain) of the England Rugby team.

    It’s too neat a parallel isn’t it? These things can happen and there’s only 6 degrees of separation or something…but…

    It now seems quite likely to me that Lorenzo was penciled-in for success just like Gerrard.

    A man whose success was long-planned partly as walking Marchioness promotion.

    The Marchioness looks like a psyOp for the rugger crowd.


    PS Don’t forget that Andy Murray is a boy from that school in Dunblane where THE British school shooting took place. Enough said?

    It makes you question true sporting excellence doesn’t it? Who woulda thunk it?



    So, let’s just get this right, this massive ocean going boat – which sank off Madeira by “splitting in two during normal dredging operations”….

    …..somehow came from underneath and dented the hull of the tiny Marchioness?

    Yet somehow, the upper deck pinged off, despite there being no line of damage between the lower hull and the area above the windows? It is bizarre in the extreme.

    Tom Dalpra


    Now, you know yesterday I said that the first survivor testimony I looked at read like cheap fiction?
    Well the next survivor story I found is cheap fiction, I think.
    Meet Magda Allani.

    It is 22 years this weekend since the Marchioness disaster on the Thames claimed 51 lives. Among them was the charismatic young financier Antonio de Vasconcellos, who was hosting a glamorous birthday party on board. Now, in a new book, Magda Allani, one of his closest friends and a survivor of the tragedy, says that even today she is haunted by the catastrophe – and the many disturbing questions it still raises.


    Magda’s story doesn’t feel real to me at all.
    So many funny bits…

    ”On the dancefloor the disco was coming alive with people singing along to The Hues Corporation. ‘Rock the boat, don’t tip the boat over,’ they yelled, without a care in the world. Unbelievable, but true”. Alright, alright, we get it. Can you really remember that detail though?

    ”Unable to hold on, I let out a gasp of air. My shoes fell away.( My shoes fell away~???) And then I started breathing in water. I knew this was bad, but it was soothing, smooth as honey. ( Right stop it. You’re being very silly now. Soothing??!!! She knew it was wrong, but it felt, so right! Like honeyhaha) I had just fallen asleep when my head popped out of the water. I swivelled, spluttering as I blinked at the Moon overhead.” ( She’d just fallen asleep?!!? I suppose after all that soothing water she drank, she was tired?).

    ”It was 45 minutes before I was spotted by a police rescue launch. Once on shore it took a few hours before I realised that for others, life had ended.”

    So blase? 45 minutes in the water strikes me as a huge ordeal but she just says it without further comment. It doesn’t ring true at all to me.

    We have the presented reality here acting as an excuse for no public inquiry.

    ”Of 131 people on board that night, only 80 survived. Within days, however, we were being portrayed in the media as a bunch of vacuous and wealthy ‘Hooray Henrys’.
    True, among our number were a few wealthy society people who enjoyed the high life, but the portrayal of us was unfair and it cost us dear. We lost the public sympathy so essential to pressuring the Government into holding a public inquiry – the only judicial format that allows disclosure of all relevant facts.”

    It’ll be interesting to look at some of the press from that time. The play would be for all classes of course. The cheap seats were maybe fed this ‘hooray henry line’, whilst the expensive seats saw the Bow Belle (oh it sounds like Bow Bells with their working-class cockney connotations) bluntly and rudely barging over these lovely young rich things.

    Now, here’s a startled looking policewoman and a confident looking ‘survivor’.
    What’s in a photograph, hey?



    Ah, yesm Tom, looking for the camera straight after a near drowning experience in cold fast flowing tidal water. And look at these mudlarks aka “forensic experts” pottering around on the foreshore, wondering just how an 1800 ton vessel could do so little damage to the hull:

    accompanying story

    “I looked up and saw a monster,” survivor Andrew Sutton told the Guardian. “The boat that hit us was a big black shape in the sky above me and to me it looked like it had eyes. Then the deck was tilting and I grabbed Helen’s hand. ‘We have to go now,’ I said, and we stepped into the water.”
    check at 11s for size of Bowbelle in central London….

    [successful at 23,Jonathan Phang who threw the party for Vasconcellos

    still can’t bring himself to talk about how he escaped from the boat (“those details are too hideous to go into”), mainly out of respect for Antonio, his parents and surviving brother

    2009 October 11 –

    Tom Dalpra

    Yet somehow, the upper deck pinged off, despite there being no line of damage between the lower hull and the area above the windows? It is bizarre in the extreme.

    xilef, on the collision, it appears the anchor of the Bowbelle is said to have struck the upper rear deck of the Marchioness and tipped it over then continued to push it under.

    Most who died were on the lower decks.

    The damage we see is just possible in this scenario, I would suggest.
    Maybe the anchor caught the top deck and started to rip it off and tip the boat.
    Then the bow of the Belle dented the side of the smaller boat lower-down, as it tipped, and was pushed under. So light in comparison, the smaller vessel would be perhaps just dinked under, if you will?
    Boats can sink pretty quickly once they fill with water. The Marchioness was the size of a doubledecker bus…

    Talking of which, maybe the top section was an all-in-one piece that could pop-off under pressure, but it has also got the look of the Tavistock bus to it.

    I dunno, you’re probably right, it would have done more damage. I’m just trying to get my head round it.


    I want to have a look at some press from the time, meanwhile, must rest.



    Fair enough, Tom. To cite the AP article above

    Survivors said…..The Bowbelle…crashed into the rear of the Marchioness knocking it sideways then hitting it again and running straight over it

    There’s an interesting HoC speech here from an East London MP, Nigel Spearing [b.1930] from 1993 [Faldo, the skipper of the Marchioness was a former constituent of his]

    We also know that the man steering the Bowbelle—the poor man is now dead—had defective hearing, sight and speech.

    I have received two letters since the [Despatches] broadcast which I should like to quote. One was from a lady called Gillian Moseley, who wrote: 975 “I am a survivor of the disaster and was the first person to climb out of the Boat after the Bowbelle ran over us and once the Marchioness ‘bobbed back up’. I was in shock at the time and my senses were heightened and I described to many people the open water I came up in. We were definitely on the west of Southwark bridge and I was horrified to learn from the programme that it was assumed otherwise, and that this assumption was the basis of false conclusions which closed the case.” It is true that the river may have been running at 2 or 3 knots and people may have been swept up river, but what about the letter from Mr. Simon Hook? Mr. Hook was a survivor. He was in a WC cubicle at the time of the collision. He said: “there was a window on my left which was square with curved edges. The bottom part of the window was blacked out. The top part of the window slid open to let the air in and it was possible to see out. The Marchioness was on a straight course and had not changed course in any way when there was an initial lurch to the side as if something had hit us. At the time my hand was in the open window and I used this to steady myself. As the Marchioness lurched over on one side I saw through the open window, the underside of a bridge overhead the boat. I now believe this was Southwark Bridge. I could see the bridge because as we tipped up there was some light coming from the Marchioness and then immediately afterwards the lights went out.” “Before seeing the television programme I did not know that the official report and the prosecution had been based on the disaster occurring between Cannon Street and Southwark Bridge. I know from my own observation that this is not the case and that the Marchioness was under Southwark Bridge and can confirm what was said on the television programme by the eye witnesses on the Hurlingham.”

    More fun at the inquest related by Frank Dobson MP, same page

    The inquest opened in April 1990 and lasted four days. In respect of all but seven of the people who died, what might be called part I of an inquest was completed. It established the identity of the victims and the immediate cause of death—drowning. The relatives of the seven people refused to allow part I of the inquest into the deaths of their loved ones unless an undertaking was given by the coroner to complete part II of his investigation. All were issued with interim death certificates, and some relatives have still not received final death certificates. The coroner has not returned to complete part I of the inquiry on the seven whose deaths were not dealt with in April 1990 and he has not returned to part II of any of the investigations. He said that he was not doing so because other investigations and judicial inquiries were doing the job.

    The Bowbelle skipper was not called to give evidence in the subsequent prosecutions and most perplexingly, it is not known where the accident occurred!

    Further questions remain to be answered including the fundamental question: where did the accident happen? British officialdom says that it happened east of Southwark bridge. As far as we know, the only evidence that it has for that—we have not been told about anyone else with any 979 evidence—is that provided by the lookouts who are alleged to have been on the bows of the Bowbelle. There are those who believe that the two dodgy witnesses on whom the Government rely were not there in the first place.

    [people] want to know whether the hands of 26 victims were severed, as stated by the coroner, or whether it was the hands of six or seven victims, or no more than nine, as stated by different parts of the Metropolitan police.

    Simon Hughes MP

    In a collision, the key question is, “How did the collision occur? Which bit of which vessel impacted on which bit of which other vessel, and what were the consequences?” Let me say this to the Minister: even if the other matters have been touched on, as they have, the evidence that is now clear about the point of collision suggests that the matter needs to be examined again.

    captain Henderson at the inquiry, 2000

    On the afternoon of the accident Captain Henderson had drunk six pints of lager.


    “I can’t recall exactly what happened because it all became a blur.” The inquiry heard that the ship’s cook was so drunk that he had gone to sleep and was not available to help in the emergency.

    The ship’s helmsman wore thick glasses and a hearing aid, but the captain denied that this meant he could not see dangers or hear warnings clearly.

    can you imagine a Beano cartoon of the helmsman? Laughable.

    So what changed following? These things:
    and this…..

    MAIB report

    A lot to digest there.

    PS of course we never learn, AFAICS, the name of the “visually impaired” helmsman [please correct me if wrong]
    More PQs here in 1994


    Mr. Spearing : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps were taken by his Marine Accident Investigation Branch to contact the survivors and witnesses of the Bowbelle collision with a view to its submission of written or oral evidence to the subsequent inquiry; and if lists of such persons were supplied to it by the Metropolitan police or other persons or bodies.

    Mr. Norris : Lists of survivors from Marchioness were supplied by the Metropolitan police. Copies of their statements and those of other witnesses were also provided; all were examined. When it appeared that the witness was in a position to provide evidence as to the circumstances of the accident, an attempt was made to contact them and invite them to meet an inspector. In addition, press advertisements were placed inviting anyone who so wished to contribute to the inquiry.

    Mr. Spearing : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what public evidence has been given, orally or in writing, by the captain of the Bowbelle concerning his seeking or obtaining permission to navigate or anchor subsequent to the collision with the Marchioness on 20 August 1989.

    Mr. Norris : Evidence was given by the master in the form of a declaration before the inspector as required under the Merchant Shipping Act 1979, and therefore not in public. He said that he was given permission to anchor in Long Reach but then told to go to Gravesend, which was later amended to Gallions reach. This is confirmed by the VHF transcript.

    oh, and we learn that the helmsman with the alleged Gig Lamps and hearing aid also had cancer of the throat but only wore bifocals an eye prescription used by a large proportion of the older adult population. Funny how the narrative changes.

    I find no other reference to these facts dribbled out in parliament.


    What I’m saying is I’ve sung a song about The Marchioness Tragedy in memory of the victims.

    If this is a psyOp, then I’ve had a go at psyOp promo here.

    Trying your hand at psyoppery, Sir Tom Dalpra? Well, we always suspected you to be a bit of a player.

    Now this survivor story made me wonder.

    Straight out of Conrad, this micro-Titanic.




    Coroner Dr Paul Knapman decided to cut the hands off more than 20 victims for identification purposes

    Looks like we’ve just identified your Wayne Carver.


    Smells of Sandy Hookness.


    Reminds me of…


    Can you say: Laying it on with a trowel?

    Antonio de Vasconcellos and Magellani? My arse!

    Ship ahoy!


    Mr. Hook was a survivor. He was in a WC cubicle at the time of the collision. He said: “there was a window on my left which was square with curved edges. The bottom part of the window was blacked out. The top part of the window slid open to let the air in and it was possible to see out.

    If you do some close reading of the stories there’s such a load of crap to be found.


    We could go on, but our time is precious.

    I consider this story blown out of the water.

    Raise ‘r up to Other PsyOps/Hoaxes already, Captain Ab!

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