x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

We know nothing about missing sailor probe in Dubai, says UK ministry

Official says even if there were information it would not be disclosed under Freedom of Information Act because of exemption covering the detection of crime and arrest of offenders.

Handout picture of British sailor Timmy MacColl who went missing in Dubai on May 27, 2012, seen here with his wife Rachael.  Courtesy of MacColl Family
Handout picture of British sailor Timmy MacColl who went missing in Dubai on May 27, 2012, seen here with his wife Rachael. Courtesy of MacColl Family

DUBAI // Britain's ministry of defence says it has received no information from Dubai Police on the investigation into Seaman Timmy MacColl's disappearance.

But it says any such information would not be disclosed as it could harm Britain's international relations or prejudice the outcome of investigations or any prosecution.

Mr MacColl, 28, vanished in May last year while on shore leave in Dubai after his ship, HMS Westminster, docked at Port Rashid.

He has not been seen since.

The case has been shrouded in secrecy since he disappeared in the early hours of May 27 after leaving the Rock Bottom Cafe at the Regent Palace Hotel, Bur Dubai.

Occasional reports of unidentified new witnesses have led nowhere.

Dubai Police is investigating the case and the UK ministry has said it was assisting.

The National submitted a request to the ministry for details under the UK Freedom of Information Act:  "Please release under the Freedom of Information Act all of the information relating to the investigation and its findings that the royal navy and the ministry of defence have received from Dubai Police."

The ministry acknowledged the request was in accordance with the act but replied: "I am writing to inform you that the department does not hold information of the description specified in your request."

The act requires a public body to say whether or not it holds the information requested. If the answer is yes, the body must pass it on.

But there are exemptions. The ministry cites three provisions that would have obliged it to withhold details of the MacColl case if Dubai Police had supplied any.

One covers international relations and applies to cases where "some of the information may, if disclosed, impact negatively on or prejudice the UK's international relationships and interests".

The ministry has said Mr MacColl's disappearance was being treated as a missing-person case, but one of the other exemptions it cites covers cases involving possible criminal proceedings.

The third exemption refers to the possibility of prejudicing "the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension or prosecution of offenders and/or the administration of justice".

The British navy has consistently refused to provide details – when asked about the case it repeats the line that Dubai Police is leading the investigation.

British prime minister David Cameron has declined to comment publicly, even though he is responsible for the deployment and disposition of the armed forces and Mr MacColl was serving in the navy.

Dubai Police has released no details to the public.

The seaman from Hampshire and his wife Rachael, 26, have three children – Cameron, 7, Skye, 5, and baby Eriskay, who has never met her father as she was born last September.

csimpson@thenational.ae