Four Nigerian stowaways, who were arrested in December last year, cut themselves and threatened to infect sailors with their blood on a cargo ship they attempted to hijack in a bid to reach Britain, a court heard on Thursday.
The Special Boat Service sailed to the rescue on the Grande Tema ship in the Thames Estuary off the coast of Essex as the drama unfolded on 21 December last year.
Samuel Jolumi, 27, Ishola Sunday, 28, Toheeb Popoola, 27, and Joberto McGee, 20, appeared at the Old Bailey today.
All four were allegedly attempting to flee Nigeria for the UK when they boarded the 78,000-tonne Italian merchant ship.
They were discovered by captain and crew after several days in hiding and placed into quarantine before breaking free five days later.
|Grande Tema container ship that brought the Nigerian stowaways to UK|
But the gang allegedly launched an attack on the crew in which they flung urine and faeces and cut themselves ‘in a bid to infect the crew.’
The stowaways were also seen to make ‘cut-throat’ gestures to crew members trapped on the bridge of the ship, jurors heard.
They allegedly threatened to break the glass and steer the ship to the UK, unless the captain did so before 6am.
Popoola can be seen in a second clip charging at the window of the bridge while his friends roamed the upper deck brandishing litre-bottles of their own urine.
Jolumi, 27, Sunday, 28, Popoola, 27, and McGee, 20, have denied attempting to hijack the ship, making threats to kill, and affray.
Opening their Old Bailey trial, prosecutor Tony Badenoch QC said the defendants had hidden themselves aboard the international merchant ship voyaging between West Africa and various European ports including Tilbury in Essex.
The Italian flagged Grande Tema weighs unladen some 78,000 tonnes, is 232 metres long, 32 metres wide and approximately 38 metres above the water line.
The container vessel operated by the Grimaldi Group is heavier than the UK’s largest aircraft carrier, and only slightly shorter in length than the Houses of Parliament, Mr Badenoch said.
He told jurors: ‘As you will no doubt be aware, migrants are leaving Africa and using all manner of different routes across land and sea to reach Europe and of course the UK here in Europe.’
He said the four defendants stowed away on the lower deck of the Grande Tema in Lagos, Nigeria, for several days of the voyage.
When the crew discovered them, they were placed into quarantine, jurors heard.
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