Police are seeking permission to travel to Russia to investigate whether bodies discovered on a spit of land in the Barents Sea are those of trawlermen who died when their vessel sank 40 years ago in Britain’s worst peacetime fishing disaster.
Thirty six men perished when the Hull-based FV Gaul disappeared whilst searching for cod and herring in the sub-Arctic in February 1974.
Despite a public inquiry concluding that chutes and hatches were left open during a storm the loss of the state-of-the-art super trawler has been the subject of persistent speculation that it was involved in Cold War spying operations and may have been sunk or captured by a Soviet submarine.
In 2012 the remains of between five and 10 individuals were found by a scientist studying tides on the remote Rybachy peninsula in the Murmansk region of northern Russia which locals had buried under rocks sometime between 1974 and 1975. The discovery of quality leather sheath knives by the bodies could mean they are foreigners, it is claimed.
Members of the crew’s families – some of whom refused to accept the findings of the 2004 inquiry - have given DNA samples hoping that it could lead to the identification of their lost loved ones. Only three bodies were recovered when the vessel was found in a private survey in 1997.
Humberside Police said three officers and an anthropologist would travel to the region once permission has been secured from the Russian authorities although no date has been set for the mission, which has received the backing of former Home Secretary and Hull and Hessle MP Alan Johnson.
A force spokesman said: “We want to send a team at the earliest opportunity but no date has been set yet. We are working in partnership with the FCO to facilitate the visit because the jurisdiction lies with the Russian authorities and we need their permission to be there.”