Wreck skipper denies manslaughter

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Defence counsel for the skipper of a square-rigger which was wrecked with the loss of three lives on the north Cornwall coast two years ago told a manslaughter trial yesterday that he wanted to "lay a ghost" which hovered over the case.

The skipper of the Maria Asumpta, Mark Litchfield, 56, of Boxley, Kent, has pleaded not guilty to three manslaughter charges arising out of the loss of the vessel near Padstow in 1995. Alun Jones QC, for the defence, told the jury at Exeter Crown Court that they may have seen publicity saying Mr Litchfield had had an interest in a ship called The Marques, which was lost off Bermuda in 1984 with the loss of 19 lives. But he was not on board and had never been accused of any criminal offence over its loss.