Mothers lose fight for riverboat inquest

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The Independent Online
MOTHERS of two victims of the Marchioness riverboat disaster yesterday failed to persuade the High Court that the coroner investigating the tragedy was biased against them.

The two High Court judges rebuked the coroner, Dr Paul Knapman, for describing one of the mothers as 'unhinged', but said there was no reason for him to resign, as the families had demanded. The court also refused to sanction the mothers' request for an inquest into the 1989 disaster - in which 51 people died - to be resumed.

Margaret Lockwood-Croft and Eileen Dallaglio began legal action last year when Dr Knapman, coroner for Inner West London, told them he did not intend to finish an inquest that had been delayed by a succession of criminal proceedings.

The two mothers were already upset with the coroner because he had ordered his officials to remove the hands from 26 of the victims' bodies for identification purposes, the court heard. Their anger was compounded when Dr Knapman told journalists that he believed Mrs Lockwood- Croft to be unhinged.

Giving judgment yesterday, Lord Justice Neill, sitting with Mr Justice Mantell, said it was 'unfortunate' that the coroner described Mrs Lockwood-Croft in this way, adding: 'I can well understand her distress and outrage.'

He also expressed sympathy with the families' demands for a full public inquiry into the disaster - a demand that has been consistently rejected by the Government. However, there was 'no real danger' that Dr Knapman was biased against the families, the court said, and his decision not to resume the inquest was justified.

Mrs Lockwood-Croft, whose 26-year-old son, Shaun died in the collision between the Marchioness and the dredger Bowbelle, said she would appeal.