Police swoop after yacht drama
POLICE and immigration officials are today questioning 15 people after an early-morning drama off the Suffolk coast.A Suffolk lifeboat was called to the aid of a stricken yacht, and after they arrived at Shotley Marina, the 15 were held.
POLICE and immigration officials are today questioning 15 people after an early-morning drama off the Suffolk coast.
A Suffolk lifeboat was called to the aid of a stricken yacht, and after they arrived at Shotley Marina, the 15 were held.
Five people have been arrested on suspicion of people-smuggling. Meanwhile the other 10 were being held by officials at Harwich on suspicion of being illegal immigrants.
The yacht got into difficulty about 12 miles off the coast of Aldeburgh and radioed for help at about 2.30am.
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It is not known whether the crew of the yacht 'Pim' sent out a Mayday message or put a call into the coastguard, but the Aldeburgh Lifeboat was launched to tow the boat in.
The exact nature of the problems on the yacht were not clear.
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Mike Testoni, press officer for the Aldeburgh, said: "We received a call from the coastguard asking us to tow a yacht in that had broken down about 12 miles off the coast of Aldeburgh.
"We towed the yacht into Shotley Marina and as the tow ropes were slipped off and the lifeboat turned back, the crew watched as a group of people ran from the boat and into a waiting van."
It was berthed in G pontoon and there were two Dutch men steering the boat.
Richard Ireland, duty lock master at Shotley Marina, said: "I had a gut feeling that something wasn't right and all of a sudden these bodies emerged out of the yacht and ran up the gangway where there was a transit van waiting. I released what was going on.
"I called our cleaner who tried to stop the van and flag it down but it just roared away. I then called the police.
"This is the second incident this week. It is very unusual for boats to get in here at Shotley.
"It's the first time a boat has succeeded here.
"The operation seemed extremely well planned and looked like a lot of time and effort had gone into it. The yacht was very expensive looking."
Mr Ireland said the people running towards the van were Asian looking.
"The driver of the van was Asian, and was wearing a turban and had a beard. It was just my luck. I was due to finish my shift at 7am. Things like this always happen when you're about to go home."
It is believed the white transit van was picked up on the A12 near Capel St Mary.
Five people, two believed to be Dutch, one French, one Indian and one Bangladeshi have been arrested in connection with facilitating the entry of illegal immigrants into the United Kingdom.
The ten remaining people have been detained by immigration officials at their Harwich base.
Today's swoop was the second in a week off the Suffolk coast – on Monday two men were arrested at Bawdsey Quay.
They appeared before Ipswich magistrates yesterday charged with facilitating the entry of illegal aliens into the United Kingdom.