THE MOTHER of a fisherman who drowned when a boat sank said she will not have closure until the inquest is complete.

Jackie Woolford, mother of Robert Morley, spoke at the unveiling of a memorial for her son, along with five other fishermen who died off the coast of Newhaven.

Adam Harper and Robert Morley died after their scallop dredger Joanna C got into difficulty on November 21, 2020. 

Captain Dave Bickerstaff survived and was pulled from the water by lifeboat crews, while the body of 26-year-old Adam Harper was found by divers five days later.

The Argus: Joanna C sunk around 6am on Saturday November 21, 2020Joanna C sunk around 6am on Saturday November 21, 2020

Robert, who was from Newhaven, was discovered washed up at Bexhill the following month.

Jackie said: “It still feels like yesterday, I don’t know if that will change. It sounds really daft but you can’t grieve. Everyone mentioned getting Robert back so we could have a funeral.

“That wasn’t it for me, it was just more heartbreak. I couldn’t look in the coffin, couldn’t say goodbye.

“So to me, all they delivered me when they said he was washed up, they just gave me a box. I couldn’t say goodbye to him, I couldn’t see him.

The Argus: Robert MorleyRobert Morley

“It was bittersweet, I would much rather he stayed at sea so at least he was somewhere and I knew he was out there somewhere. Even though your heart breaks and says it’s true, your head says it isn’t true, so it’s hard.

“We won’t have closure until the inquest, we don’t know when that is. We’re just waiting for the Maritime Coastguard Agency report.”

An interim report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch was released in November 2021 with the sole objective of the "prevention of future accidents".

The purpose of the report is not to "determine liability" behind how the incident happened.

The interim report stated that at the time of the accident, the crew were "recovering the vessel's gear".

Currently, there is no date set by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency for the inquest into the sinking of Joanna C, although the incident is still being "looked into" under the Merchant Shipping Act.

No more details could be provided for "legal reasons".

The Argus: Robert and Adam's names on the memorialRobert and Adam's names on the memorial

A spokeswoman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “The Maritime and Coastguard’s Regulatory Compliance Investigations Team is currently looking into the circumstances surrounding the sinking of Joanna C in November 2020.

"We cannot comment further at this time for legal reasons.”

The memorial is at the sea end of Fort Road in Newhaven. It is a tribute to fishermen Adam Harper and Robert Morley of the Joanna C, as well as John Ship, Joe Bowen and Andrew Penfold, of the vessel Sylvia Marita, who died in 1979, and Darren Brown, a deckhand on the Our Sarah Jane, who died in 2016.