Stowaways who caused havoc on container ship in Thames Estuary jailed

image copyrightFarid Mernissi/Wikipedia
image captionThe Grande Tema set sail from Lagos in Nigeria and was bound for Tilbury in Essex

Four stowaways have been jailed after they ran amok on a container ship as it navigated the world's busiest shipping lanes.

The men, from Nigeria and Liberia, waved metal poles and threw faeces and urine after being found hiding on the vessel in December 2018.

When it reached the Thames Estuary bound for Tilbury docks, Essex, they demanded to be dropped off in Britain.

The men were jailed for affray offences following a trial at the Old Bailey.

Samuel Jolumi, 27, Ishola Sunday, 28, Toheeb Popoola, 27, and Joberto McGee, 21, were cleared of attempting to hijack the 78,000-tonne Grande Tema ship following the same trial.

image copyrightEssex Police
image captionJoberto McGee was described as the group's ringleader
image copyrightEssex Police
image captionToheeb Popoola claimed he acted out of "desperation"

Two of the men made cut-throat gestures at the crew, who had barricaded themselves on the bridge, the court heard.

Following a 14-hour standoff, special forces swooped on the ship to rescue the sailors.

Popoola and ringleader McGee were jailed for 31 months and 32 months respectively for making threats to kill and affray.

In mitigation, it was claimed Popoola had acted out of "desperation" and that McGee had been fleeing West Africa to avoid being forced to join a "tribal gang".

Sunday had made an "impulsive decision" to hide aboard the ship and "wants nothing other than to go home and rebuild his life", the court was told.

image copyrightEssex Police
image captionSamuel Jolumi was jailed for 16 months
image copyrightEssex Police
image captionIshola Sunday said he wanted to return home following his conviction

Judge Nigel Lickley QC told McGee: "Your behaviour was at times menacing and threatening."

Sunday and Jolumi were handed jail terms of 16 months for affray.

Judge Lickley said it was an "unusual case", the like of which he had never come across before.

He praised the "fortitude and good sense" of the ship's Italian captain, Antonio Raggi, in the face of violence and possible death.

During the trial, prosecutor Tony Badenoch QC had told how the men had secretly boarded the Grimaldi Group ship in Lagos, Nigeria, before it set off on its trading route to Tilbury in Essex.

The immigration status of all four men is being reviewed by the UK Border Agency.

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