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A car ferry officer has walked free from court after being cleared of any involvement in the deaths of three sailors who died in the English Channel when their yacht sank without a trace.

Michael Hubble, 62, said he would now get on with his life and go back to sea.

He was formally cleared of endangering the lives of James Meaby, 36, Jason Downer, 35, and Rupert Saunders, 36, at Winchester Crown Court when the jury told the judge they could not reach verdicts.

The men died when their yacht the Ouzo sank off the Isle of Wight in August last year.

On Wednesday Hubble, of Wine House Lane, Capel-le-Ferne, Folkestone, Kent, was found not guilty of the sailors' manslaughter by the jury.

The seven women and five men told the judge, Mr Justice Owen, they could not agree on verdicts on three lesser charges, under the Merchant Shipping Act, of engaging in conduct as a seaman that was likely to cause death or serious injury to the men.

The judge then discharged the jury after 33 hours of deliberating. The Crown Prosecution Service confirmed they would not seek a re-trial as it was not in the public interest.

Speaking outside court Hubble said: "The families of the men have my deepest sympathy but the demise of those men was nothing to do with me, or any action of mine or the Pride of Bilbao. I have never done anything negligent in my life."

Mr Hubble's solicitor, Kerry King, added: "We are extremely pleased with the outcome. Mr Hubble has always maintained that the decision he made as the officer on watch was the correct one."

Hubble was in charge on board the 37,500-tonne P&O ferry Pride of Bilbao when the prosecution alleged he turned "a blind eye" to the close quarters incident with the 25ft Ouzo in the early hours of August 21. Hubble denied both the manslaughter and the Merchant Shipping Act charges.


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