Plane crash spy claims ridiculed

CLAIMS of espionage levelled at an Ipswich businessman who died in a plane crash were today described as absurd by a close friend.

CLAIMS of espionage levelled at an Ipswich businessman who died in a plane crash were today described as absurd by a close friend.

Michael Newman, 53, of Benhall, and his passenger Pakistani Zaka Ulab Bhamgoo, died when the two-seater light aircraft they were flying in crashed in poor weather conditions in northern Turkey on Sunday.

It has now been claimed by the Turkish interior minister Osman Gunes that Mr Newman, who ran Spirit Yachts in Ipswich, and Mr Bhamgoo, were being trailed by MIT, the Turkish intelligence services.

A Turkish newspaper added to the intrigue claiming the pair may have been taking nuclear secrets or radioactive material to Iran.

Mr Newman, known as Mick to his friends, and Mr Bhamgoo were nearing the end of a three-week trip at the time of the crash and had been due to fly from Turkey to Pakistan via fuel stops in Iran.

It has been reported that Mr Bhamgoo was a former general for Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf.

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Sean McMillan, who has run Spirit Yachts with Mr Newman for the past 14 years, said: “Initially I thought it was absolutely ludicrous but now it has got to the stage where it has become risible.

“For anybody who knew Mick the whole thing is completely laughable. Mick would be amused by all of this.”

Ironically, Mr Newman had been involved with the latest James Bond film, Casino Royale, after the production company asked to borrow one of his company's yachts.

Mr McMillan said: “Mick was a big man in every sense of the word - he had a big heart, very cheerful, always smiling and very talented.

“He wasn't interested in politics or the politics of the Middle East at all.

“He was interested in people and had been looking forward to meeting people he came across on the trip.”

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said the claims are being looked into.

She said: “We are aware of these reports and are investigating. We are in close contact with the Turkish authorities.

“Until all the facts are known we are not prepared to comment on media speculation or rumour.”

n Do you have a tribute for Mr Newman? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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