Last British 'Titanic' survivor disgusted by salvagers selling off ship's treasures

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The Independent Online

The last British survivor from the Titanic has condemned the people plundering the ship's wreckage where the bodies of hundreds, including her father, remain.

Milveena Dean, 94, was shocked to learn that parts from the ship that is her father's grave are on sale on the black market as salvage companies and divers plunder the wreck.

Ms Dean, from Hampshire, who was a baby when the ship went down, said: "My father is still on there. It's awfully wrong to take things especially from a ship where so many people perished. I don't suppose these people thought of that. They just thought of the money."

When it set out for its maiden voyage from Southampton on 10 April 1912, Titanic, the "unsinkable" ship, was heavily laden with expensive goods. Traders paid for space to transport cases of fine leather, barrels of glassware, trunks of lace and rolls of silk.

The ship itself was a floating palace of luxurious furniture, beautiful crockery and silverware and its first-class passengers carried with them extravagant quantities of jewellery, gold chains, pocket watches and silver cigarette cases.

On the night the unthinkable happened and the ship that no one thought could sink hit an iceberg and went down off the coast of Newfoundland, it took the lives of hundreds and took its sumptuous cargo to the bottom.

Of the 2,223 people on board only 706 survived; for those who drowned the ship and the seabed around the ship became a final resting place. But now, 94 years on, black market dealers are breaking the sanctity of that grave by making regular trips to the wreckage and taking whatever they can to sell illegally.

They have to dive to great depths to recover the ship's treasures, but once they have them even everyday items fetch huge sums.

An investigation by BBC1's Inside Out programme, being screened tomorrow in the North region, found a porthole from the liner on sale for £20,000 and crockery recovered from the bed of the Atlantic selling for £60 a piece.

The company that made the Titanic's portholes, Utley's Engineering, is still thriving and holds detailed records of everything it made for the liner.

Tom Utley, the firm's managing director, told Inside Out that he has been asked to authenticate parts from the Titanic by people he thinks have taken them illegally.

He said: "We had a phone call from a dealer and he wanted it authenticated by us because if it has come off the ship, obviously he would get more money for it. I have absolutely no doubt it was from the Titanic."

The Titanic is protected by rulings from a US court which forbid the sale of relics and give salvage rights to an Atlanta-based company called RMS Titanic Inc. The company can take certain items from the ship on condition that it puts them on public display. All other removals from the ship are illegal.