Briton's death: No evidence of piracy found `Pirate' victim had feared for his life on yacht

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The Independent Online
THE FOREIGN Office has asked Somali and French authorities to investigate the death of the British backpacker Alan MacLean, after forensic scientists found no evidence to support the story that he had been killed by pirates.

Philippe Sorel, skipper of the yacht, The Correlation, reported last week that Mr MacLean, 28, from Aberdeen, had been killed aboard five days earlier when a gang of five pirates attacked and shot him off the Somali coast, in the Indian Ocean. But Mohammad Turaiq, chief of security in the Yemeni port of Aden, where the yacht is berthed, said his search of The Correlation had found no bullet holes, traces of blood or evidence of a violent struggle.

There can be no post- mortem examination. Captain Sorel said he buried Mr MacLean at sea, because of the extreme heat and distance from a safe port. Yesterday, the victim's father, Neil MacLean, a retired Royal Navy officer, said the results of the forensic examination prompted further concerns about the captain's account. He had already raised doubts about Captain Sorel's version, saying his son had sent the family e-mails expressing fears for his life and saying there were drugs aboard.

"The inspection by the Yemeni police has given no indication of the attack, undermining the captain's claims of a shoot-out," said Mr MacLean. "Given this, there is no evidence of pirates but no evidence there weren't. What is clear is that there is an area of contention that needs to be questioned."

He said he had seen pirates at work during his Navy service and had never known them to leave witnesses to a murder. The Yemeni side of the investigation is now likely to be wound up, since his son died in Somali territorial waters. Somalia has no government and no investigative authority.

The Foreign Office has sought information from the Somali authorities, but expects the French to take over the inquiry since the yacht is French-registered and the captain a French citizen. A Foreign Office spokesman said pirates had attacked a German and a Polish vessel in the area earlier this year.

Mr MacLean wants British police to interview the captain and his female companion in Aden. Interpol has been notified.