Gaul's secret source goes public to press

Smith’s website and, inset, Barron

An anonymous source to the inquiry into the sinking of trawler “The Gaul” dramatically revealed his identity to a press conference at NCTJ training college Trinity and All Saints, Leeds, on Tuesday.

The source, now known to be former Royal Navy chief petty officer Derek Barron, was interviewed and protected by online journalist Graham Smith, who has been investigating the sinking of The Gaul, in which 36 crew died off the Arctic coast of Norway, since being assigned the story as a reporter with the Hull Daily Mail.

The information he has gathered over the past 30 years is posted on his website,

Barron’s fresh evidence supports the theory that the trawler was accidentally dragged over by a submarine caught in its fishing nets.

He told the conference, attended by some of the families of the victims, that he had overheard a Royal Navy submarine warrant officer confess to accidentally dragging over the Gaul while on patrol in a British nuclear submarine.

“He specifically named the trawler as the Gaul, of that there is no doubt in my mind,” said Barron.

Before Tuesday Smith had been locked in a legal battle with solicitors to the inquiry who tried to force him to reveal his source (Press Gazette, 14 May).

He was repeatedly contacted, and a witness summons was issued under the Merchant Shipping Act and Magistrate’s Court Act. Smith resisted the demands and after taking legal advice and being backed by the NUJ the summons was delayed and eventually dropped.

Barron only decided to come forward after government solicitors assured him on Monday that he would not be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act and that his naval pension would not be affected.

Smith said: “Mr Barron agreed to come here today because I think that he’s had enough. He finally wants to stand up and say this is me and this is what I heard.”

Laurance O’Dea, government solicitor to the inquiry was also present, and confirmed that he would be investigating the claims: “It is most likely that I’ll contact the Ministry of Defence for further information”.

A full report on the Gaul inquiry’s findings will be published on July 30.

By Roland Hancock

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