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HOLS TRAGEDY OILMAN FACES BOAT TRIPLE DEATHS RAP; Italian move two years after accident.

A SCOTS oilman is facing multiple manslaughter charges over a triple-death boating horror during a family holiday in Italy.

John Lilley, 46, his son Andrew and daughter Alison were in a pleasure cruiser they had hired with a another family when it capsized during a sudden storm.

John and his two children survived a 15-hour ordeal on Lake Garda in northern Italy but teacher Richard Harris, 50, died along with sons Tim, 13, and six-year-old Luke. Mrs Katherine Harris also survived.

Now, John has been told he could face charges over the accident in August two years ago.

Last night, John, from Aberdeen, said: "It has been a nightmare and the possible charges are shocking.

"I've only just found out and haven't really had time to take it in.

"I haven't been officially charged with anything.

"I've got to try and leave things up to my lawyer, otherwise I wouldn't be able to get on with my life."

Yesterday, Ian Shand, of the British Consulate's office in Milan, said: "John Lilley has been accused of shipwreck, negligence, causing disaster and multiple manslaughter.

"It is alleged John continued to sail in spite of the storm and not having made sure that passengers were wearing lifejackets. At September's pre-trial examination, it will be up to the prosecuting magistrate to put forward a case for going ahead with the prosecutions.

"John and the others who have been cited can put forward their case as to why they think a prosecution shouldn't go ahead."

The pre-trial hearing is set for Thursday, September 28.

Following the tragedy, John told how he would never forget the face of six-year-old Luke as they clung to the upturned boat.

John wept as he told how he supported Luke's body for two more agonising hours after the little boy had lost his fight for life. But realising he had to save his own two children, John finally eased his grip on Luke and lashed him to the boat's hull.

Experienced sailor John also relived the horrifying moment when a huge wave tore all of them away from the boat.

He said: "It was then we suddenly realised that Richard was floating away. I saw him go further and further, floating on his back.

"But, by then, Katherine had handed Luke over to me and there was nothing I could do. I couldn't swim after him and run the risk of losing everyone."

The alarm was eventually raised by John's wife Jane who had stayed ashore.

She notified the boat's owners and staff at the family's hotel but search teams said they didn't learn of the missing boat until the following morning.

The local mayor later apologised and admitted there had been a delay in sending out rescuers.

Nine people, including John, are facing charges.

The chief of police in the town of Salo, bordering one side of Lake Garda, has been cited as have five police officers from Caprino Veronese on the opposite side.

Mr Shand said: "The police have been accused of multiple manslaughter and not having initiated a search in good time."

The boat's two owners have been accused of having failed to inform tourists of the changeable weather conditions, not having explained where the lifejackets were located and delays in alerting emergency services.

Lawyer Paul Rendell said that John does not have to attend the September hearing but he would probably be there with his firm's Italian agents.
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Author:Gall, Charlie
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 21, 2000
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