Sussex

Diver Stephen Martin 'elated' after Malta charges dropped

Stephen Martin Image copyright British Sub Aqua Club/PA
Image caption Stephen Martin was due to face trial in Malta on charges of involuntary manslaughter

A scuba diver facing extradition to Malta has spoken of his elation after charges against him over the deaths of his girlfriend and friend were dropped.

Stephen Martin, 56, from Rustington, West Sussex, was due to face trial on charges of involuntary homicide after the pair died during a dive in 2014.

Larissa Hooley, 48, from Aylesbury, and Nigel Haines, 59, of Hove, died during the incident off the island of Gozo.

"I feel I can finally start grieving for Larissa and Nigel," Mr Martin said.

'Bittersweet success'

The Maltese authorities had wanted Mr Martin to face trial as he was the most experienced diver of the three, and had been due to appeal the request for extradition at the High Court in London.

It was despite a UK inquest ruling that their deaths were accidental.

The charges were dropped following a visit to the island's attorney-general by officials from the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC)

Mr Martin said: "I was absolutely elated, but it is a bittersweet success really because at the end of it two of my very, very good friends died."

Image caption Larissa Hooley and Nigel Haines died during the diving expedition off the island of Gozo in June 2014

The IT manager and father-of-three, who is an advanced diver and open water instructor with BSAC, said his "utter nightmare" was now over.

"I feel I can finally start grieving for Larissa and Nigel. I just can't keep back the tears," he said.

Mr Martin had been on bail in the UK since he was held on a European Arrest Warrant last July, subjected to a daily curfew from midnight to 7am and told to report to police three times a week.

He recalled how he and a group of friends had been on a routine dive - one they had done several times before - when Ms Hooley began to descend rapidly.

"The two friends behind me rescued her immediately, and I realised the situation was a lot more worse," he said.

Mr Haines died during the frantic attempts to rescue her.

Both were found to have died from immersion pulmonary oedema - when a diver experiences an accumulation of fluid in the lungs.

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