Life at the Bar – A sack of potatoes and a bottle of Teepol
Not a murder, but still one of the most interesting cases I was involved in. The client, Max was a fisherman. He sailed in small boats out of Fleetwood, when there was still a fishing fleet in the north Lancashire town. The basis that these small trawlers worked on was called share fishing. The boat’s owners took the major share of the profits on the catch and the remainder was split between the rest of the sailors. On this trip the Goodwill had a crew of five. Max was the fishing skipper; the defacto captain of the ship. He wasn’t a certificated captain so there was on older man who was, but Max really ran the boat and directed where they would sail and where they would put the nets down. He was the man with the ‘nose’ for the shoals.
This particular night they were fishing in the Irish Sea. One of the crew was on watch and Max had gone to his bunk to sleep. The sea was running high and the small boat rolled and pitched. It was cold and the fire in the cabin had been lit. Suddenly the boat was hit by a large wave and the gas bottle in the galley, secured in place by a sack of potatoes and a bottle of Teepol came loose and rolled along the deck and into the cabin.
Max was woken as the gas from the bottle exploded. He grabbed his clothes and ran through a wall of fire onto the deck. The rest of the crew had already got the lifeboat over the side and they all jumped into it. They were in the life raft for three days before they were picked up by another boat and taken to the Isle of Man. Here Max was treated for the burns he had suffered as he dashed from the cabin. He needed extensive skin grafts to his face and hands. He was devastatingly charming despite being very disfigured.
He sued the boats owners for damages for the injuries he had sustained, on the basis they had failed to provide proper housing for the gas bottle in the galley. The owners denied liability saying they were not his employers and did not owe a duty of care to him or the rest of the crew. The judge disagreed and awarded Max substantial damages.
I had driven then to the final hearing, which took place in Chester, in my principal’s car which broke down on the way back. Fortunately my passengers were too elated to worry about the delay caused and waited patiently at the roadside until we were rescued b