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Three Brits Accused of Looting Shipwreck Go On Trial in Italy; 'We Did Give Everything Back

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PORTOFERRAIO, Italy -- Three divers accused of modern-day piracy after a shipwreck was allegedly looted are due to go on trial in Italy today (October 16).

Nicholas Pearson, a property developer from Yarmouth, David Dixon, a marine consultant from Aylsham, and Kerr Sinclair, a diver from Corton, near Lowestoft, are accused of illegally diving and damaging the wreck of the Pollux, an Italian steamship which sank off the island of Elba in 1841.

If found guilty of stealing items from the wreck and damaging the artistic and cultural patrimony of property belonging to Italy, the men face up to four years in jail.

After three weeks of diving, they had recovered 311 French and Spanish gold coins, 2,000 silver coins, some diamonds and a gold locket believed to contain a lock of Napoleon's hair. At the time of the initial police investigation in 2001, they said they had consent from both the British and Italian governments and had stumbled across the Pollux while looking for another wreck. All three had hoped the matter was at an end after spending months on police bail and paying a fine to British authorities.

Yesterday, Mr Pearson and Mr Dixon were unavailable for comment, but Mr Sinclair said: “I thought this was all over. I'm sorry for what happened, and we did give everything back.''

According to Italian prosecutors, the group travelled to Italy in 2000 then chartered a salvage ship and bought permission to retrieve tin ingots from the Glen Logan, a British merchant ship torpedoed by a U-boat off the Tyrrhenian island of Stromboli in 1916. Instead, they diverted their course 460 miles northwards, where they found the wreck of the Pollux lying at 300ft.

Prosecutor Giuseppe Rizzo alleged: “These divers tricked their way on to the wreck and submitted false paperwork. Nothing would have been known about it had the auction house not become suspicious.

“They questioned how such an extensive collection of gold and silver coins which were from France and Spain could have been on board a British merchant ship sunk in 1916.”

Pascal Kainac, a French historian, also faces charges at the court in Portoferraio, on Elba, accused of supplying them with ancient maps and co-ordinates.

Reports in French newspapers at the time of the sinking said the ship had been carrying a total of £12m of goods including 100,000 gold coins and 70,000 silver ones, as well as a gold carriage belong to the Contessa de la Roccau. Its passengers included a Russian countess and a Neapolitan duchess who were carrying diamonds and emeralds.

It sank in 15 minutes after being hit by another steamship on a voyage between Naples and Marseilles. Speculation in both Italy and France suggested the other ship was manned by pirates.

Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of, its staff or its advertisers.

Reader Comments

13 people have commented so far. cloud add your comment

To the victor (discoverer) go the spoils. I am a firm believer that if one finds treasure in the ocean it belongs to them and them alone.
   comment# 1   - tim tremblay · U.S.A. · May 27, 2007 @ 8:06pm

unlucky for them.the law is the and what happened to the rest of the treasure that they found.did it get pissed up the wall.?did they buy property with it???or spent in the ship public house. hope so.
   comment# 2   - t.himpleman · great yarmouth england · May 18, 2008 @ 2:56pm

i agree with mr tremblay ,its finders keepers!
   comment# 3   - fred lemoine · cape town s.a. · May 27, 2008 @ 2:44am

Well done Kerr and his associates, why should anyone claim the right to this sunken treasure, if they were clever enough to do their research, spend the money to charter a dive vessel, then they should be entitled to what they find!
   comment# 4   - Tony Peters · Troon, Scotland, UK · Dec 26, 2009 @ 6:21am

Well done to all of them for finding it.And as for clever trevors t.himpleman[comment#2]pathetic.It was all returned as stated.jealousy will get you no where will it,you silly little dwarf. Well done to the crew, we all like a good story with a happy ending.
   comment# 5   - john bradley · london england · Dec 18, 2010 @ 6:21am

Not the first time Mr. Pearson was involved in dodgy salvage 'adventures' HSE were called in at Hove, Sussex when he was a director of the defunct SSN . Reports that none of them had any previous diving experience are way off the mark.
   comment# 6   - George Brown · uk · Mar 2, 2011 @ 5:46am

interesting article as I know of Mr nick Pearson.What happened at the trial as there has been no news of the result?Does anybody know?
   comment# 7   - alan chandler · norfolk · Aug 8, 2011 @ 5:39am

he is a proficient legal salvage diver,certs and all that,And yes,what happened to the rest of the treasure??Is not most salvage dodgy?Who knows whats down there and gets taken by divers..The Italians were paid off,[rumour in the ship pub] so it wouldnt get to court.What did they pay them off with?It must be substantial as the value of the siezed goods were valued at£2/3million.And the comment by john bradley on me being a dwarf,is defamation.!!
   comment# 8   - trevor himpleman · great yarmouth · Dec 3, 2012 @ 10:36am

Someone has posted above comments (2 & 8) in my name.
   comment# 9   - T Himpleman · Norwich · Sep 13, 2015 @ 1:08pm

I worked as a salvage diver yrs ago,and can assure you,some things did get left[forgot]about on the sea floor.!At a later date,a salvage team would go in,covertly,collect what was left,[and what no one else was aware of was down there.]Spoils of war.!! I also don't understand as to why people are negative towards Mr Pearson and his team of men.He is a decent honest fellow,i trust the man 100%,keep up the good work Nik,and hopefully you will be able to buy me that pint or three soon...As for my opinion,the persons who post negative comments about you,are jealous of your success..comments 2,6,and 8.Keep up the good work men... John [muffy] Rodgers
   comment# 10   - Mr John Rodgers [BDAS] · Norwich, uk · Jun 29, 2016 @ 5:24pm

Well done men,when are you salvaging the next wreck,? i want to be with you..I may be old and retired,but the adventure makes you feel young again..!!
   comment# 11   - Mr John Jermy · Great Yarmouth,Norfolk,Uk · Jul 1, 2016 @ 10:45am

I am a dealer of antiquities and why will you not believe me,that they took stuff,not handed it all in.He buys Aston martins and houses with the treasure thy kept.Welldone, or not well done to you???
   comment# 12   - t himpleman · caister on sea, great yarmouth · Feb 19, 2017 @ 5:49am

Well done men on the retrieval of the treasure.When is the next salvage operation taking place?T Himpleman is not to be trusted,i dealt with him in Thailand,and he ripped us off and left the country.We know your in Yarmouth so we see you soon Mr Himpleman.Mr Pearson and his team are the good guys,finders keepers it is... See you soon t himpleman
   comment# 13   - Donald Mctavish · Thailand\Scotland · Mar 8, 2017 @ 1:12pm
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