Damages for musician whose career perished in disaster

A professional musician whose career with top pop bands was wrecked by the Marchioness riverboat disaster yesterday accepted pounds 150,000 damages.

Jo Wells, 38, was at the party on board the pleasure cruiser when it collided with the sand dredger the Bowbelle in August 1989 killing 51 people.

The High Court in London heard how she had toured the world with pop groups Tears for Fears and the Communards before the accident. Pete Townshend, of The Who, described her as "exceptional" and said she was "certainly the best soprano saxophonist I have ever heard in pop".

But after the accident in which she almost drowned, she suffered severe depression and had not been able to resume her music, it was claimed. Instead of earning an estimated pounds 40,000 a year or more if she had gone on to a successful solo career, she had been reduced to working as a cleaner.

The owners of the Bowbelle and the Marchioness admitted liability but there was a dispute about the amount of damages. They initially claimed she had been burnt out before the accident and would have been unlikely to have further success. They also questioned what she had actually earned at the time, pointing to a lack of documentary evidence to prove it.

But at a resumed hearing in the High Court in Preston yesterday, Mr Justice Kay approved an agreed settlement of pounds 150,000 damages plus costs.

The earlier hearing had heard how Ms Wells, of Salford, Greater Manchester, had been regarded as a "star" at the prestigious Chethams music school in Manchester. She beat 10,000 other young musicians to win a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, London, with her then instrument, the clarinet. But she had left her studies to launch a pop career with the band Kissing the Pink, before enjoying significant success with Tears for Fears and the Communards.

Michael Redfern QC, her counsel, said she had developed post-traumatic stress disorder which affected her concentration after the accident in which her cousin died.

She had begun and then dropped out of a university course and binged on bottles of Scotch as she tried to come to terms with the tragedy. Ms Wells said she drank "to numb the feelings and sense of loss".

A jury at a coroner's court in 1995 decided the 51 victims had been "unlawfully killed" when the Bowbelle struck the stern of the Marchioness near Southwark Bridge on 20 August 1989. The pleasure boat's upper deck was ripped away, killing many people who were on the dance floor downstairs when the collision happened. Survivors and relatives of victims claimed that those responsible for the disaster should face manslaughter charges for a "hit and run accident" in which the Bowbelle broke maritime rules. But the Crown Prosecution Service decided last year that no criminal charges would be brought.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Getty
News
Women have been desperate to possess dimples like Cheryl Cole's
people Cole has secretly married French boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini after just three months.
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Extras
indybestThe tastiest creations for children’s parties this summer
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Paolo Nutini performs at T in the Park
music
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Programme Manager - Business Support Transformation, 1 year contract

£550 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Walthamstow...

Head Of Development

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This excitin...

PHP Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: PHP Developer...

MIDDLE EAST CURRENT AFFAIRS OFFICER

£27,000-£34,000 per annum: US Embassy: An office of the US Embassy based in Be...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor