Marchioness mum attacks ITV drama

A GRIEVING mother whose son died in the Marchioness boat tragedy nearly 17 years ago has accused ITV of trying to “cash in” on the disaster.Joyce Drew, from Ipswich, whose son Christopher Garnham was among the 51 victims, spoke out after it emerged the station is planning to screen a dramatisation of the tragedy.

A GRIEVING mother whose son died in the Marchioness boat tragedy nearly 17 years ago has accused ITV of trying to “cash in” on the disaster.

Joyce Drew, from Ipswich, whose son Christopher Garnham was among the 51 victims, spoke out after it emerged the station is planning to screen a dramatisation of the tragedy.

The Marchioness Disaster, which revisits the night of the crash in August 1989, is billed as “a terrifying dramatisation of the real-life riverboat tragedy”.

But Mrs Drew, of Balmoral Close, said: “I don't want it to go on. I am dead against it. Our lives have been destroyed because of what has happened.


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“There are people who are prepared to accept it but we are all different. They (ITV) are trying to cash in on it. They are going to make money out of it.”

The drama depicts partygoers trapped on board the Marchioness and banging on windows in a desperate bid to escape after the pleasure boat was rammed by the dredger Bowbelle on the River Thames.

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Mr Garnham, 31, an award-winning photographer and artist from Ipswich, was one of those who died on the fateful night.

His mother said she was horrified to think television bosses had reconstructed the horrific events.

“It is cruel to do it to their parents. I can't cope with it now and there are lots of people who must feel exactly the same,” said Mrs Drew.

Margaret Lockwood-Croft, whose 26-year-old son, Shaun, died in the disaster, said of the dramatisation: “It is sensationalist and voyeuristic in a cruel and insensitive manner.”

Mrs Lockwood-Croft, who is chairwoman of the Marchioness Action Group, which represents about half of the bereaved families, said: “The majority of survivors and bereaved families don't want this.

“I know how Shaun died and we don't need to see the agony our children went through.”

She now plans to write to the head of ITV, requesting that the programme is not broadcast. It is expected to be shown later this year, although no transmission date has been set.

Annette Russell, who survived the disaster but lost many friends, said it was “disgusting” the drama had been made.

“I don't intend to watch it. I feel it is time to let people rest in peace. I don't see what good is going to be gained by the film. I cannot imagine it will give relief to survivors. It will only upset people,” she said.

The film, written by David Yallop, is a co-production between Yorkshire Television and Chameleon Television.

It was filmed with the co-operation of the Marchioness Contact Group, which is not connected to the Marchioness Action Group.

One of its members is Eileen Dallaglio, whose 19-year-old daughter Francesca, was the youngest victim. Mrs Dallaglio, mother of England rugby star Lawrence, described it as “a very powerful piece of film-making”.

Granada International is promoting the 95-minute film for sale around the world. It promises “incredible individual stories of heroism, survival and loss”.

But an ITV spokeswoman denied the film would be sensational.

“We have tried to make a film with honesty and integrity that tells the story of what happened on that night and the repercussions of the disaster. We don't think we have sensationalised it in any way and we are sorry if anyone feels that way,” she said.

“Of course this kind of factual drama will stir up memories but for every victim's relative who feels that the subject should be left alone, there is another who feels that the memories should be kept alive.”

n The Marchioness pleasureboat sank after colliding with the dredger Bowbelle under Cannon Street Railway Bridge on the River Thames on August 20, 1989.

n Fifty-one of the 132 passengers on board, who were attending a private birthday party, were drowned.

n The disaster was found by the Marine Accidents Investigation Board to have been caused by the poor visibility from each ship, the fact that both vessels were using the centre of the river, and that no clear instructions were given to the look-out at the bow of the Bowbelle.

n The skipper of the Bowbelle, Douglas Henderson, was put on trial in 1991 for failing to keep a proper look-out but, after two juries failed to reach a verdict, he was formally acquitted.

n A coroner's inquest in 1995 found the victims had been unlawfully killed. A judicial review was ordered in 1999 and in 2002 the RNLI set up four lifeboat stations for the Thames.

n A memorial to the victims was erected close to the site of the disaster in the Nave of Southwark Cathedral.

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