Man who piloted dinghy that led to four migrant deaths found guilty of manslaughter

Court sketch of Ibrahima Bah

Court artist drawing by Elizabeth Cook of Ibrahima Bah at Folkestone Magistrates' Court

George Bunn

By George Bunn

Published: 19/02/2024

- 12:36

Updated: 19/02/2024

- 13:30

A jury found him guilty at Canterbury Crown Court

A man has been found guilty of the manslaughter of four people after the boat he was piloting ran into difficulty in the English Channel.

Ibrahima Bah had offered to steer the dinghy in December 2022 in exchange for a free crossing.

He had claimed that he was forced by violent smugglers to make the journey with at least 43 other migrants.

Bah had previously told the court he had changed his mind about piloting the boat to the UK when he arrived at the beach on the French coast and saw it was too small for the number of passengers.

\u200bCanterbury Crown Court

A jury found him guilty at Canterbury Crown Court

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The home-built, low-quality inflatable should not have held more than 20 people. Bah claimed he was assaulted by smugglers and threatened with death if he did not go ahead with the crossing.

Specialist prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service Libby Clark said: “Bah claimed that he had sailed boats before and, as a result, received free passage, whereas everyone else on the boat had paid thousands of euros to make the tragic journey.

"The boat he piloted was never designed to undertake a crossing in the world’s busiest shipping lane and would have been all but invisible to other ships.

"Navigation was carried out with just mobile phones as there were no other navigational aids available.

"There is no evidence to suggest that Bah had any training in piloting a boat like this or keeping people safe and, as the pilot, he assumed responsibility for ensuring the safety of his fellow passengers.

"Any reasonable person would have recognised that by piloting such an ill-equipped and overloaded boat in such dangerous circumstances, there was an obvious risk of serious harm to the passengers.

"As a result of Bah’s actions, four men tragically lost their lives in the Channel that night. Our thoughts remain with their families."


\u200bThe inflatable

The inflatable was not seaworthy

Crown Prosecution Service

The jury in a previous trial, held last summer, were dismissed after being unable to reach a verdict.

This jury heard that a crew on a British fishing boat came across the sinking boat and tried to rescue the passengers, with help from the RNLI, air ambulance and UK Border Force.

A total of 39 survivors were brought to shore in Dover. But the exact number of migrants who drowned is unknown, as it appears at least one person's body believed to have not been recovered.

The court heard that it was Bah’s dream to come to the UK to claim asylum, and he had left Senegal in 2019.

He told police, when he arrived in the UK, that he had travelled from Senegal to Mali, Algeria and then Libya, before going by boat to Italy using smugglers.

One of the four who lost their lives was named as Hajratullah Ahmadi. The other three were described as "unknown".

The journey was navigated by two Afghan men at the front of the boat using mobile phones.

Duncan Atkinson KC, prosecuting, said Bah owed them a "duty of care to ensure their safety and protect them from the overwhelming risk to their lives".

During the trial, one asylum seeker, Amrullah Ahmadzai, described how everyone on the boat was screaming and trying to call for help on their mobile phones during the journey, before being rescued by the fishing boat.

He described how the skipper tried to steer the dinghy towards the fishing vessel to help the passengers, and was shouting at everyone ‘calm down, I’m going to take you there’.

The court heard from witnesses that before the voyage the group of migrants were transported in three cars to the shoreline, organised by Kurdish agents. The smugglers also brought the boat in a car and got the passengers to help pump it up.

Bah will be sentenced on Friday afternoon.

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