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Owner of 32ft yacht - claimed to be lost at sea - awarded damages against insurance company

The Co Meath owner of a 32ft yacht, claimed to have been lost at sea in an alleged tragic suicide, has been awarded damages against his insurance company.

Senan Boland, of Greenane, Dunshaughlin, Co Meath, claimed in the Circuit Civil Court that his boat had been stolen by the man he had engaged to take care of it in the Canary Islands.

Boland told Judge Alan Mahon he had bought the yacht in 2007 for occasional use by his family and had engaged Alexander “Sandy” Booth Taylor to look after it while moored in their absence at Puerto Calero, Lanzarote.

Boland said in court that his boat had been stolen by Booth Taylor in early July 2011 and that at the time Booth Taylor had told other people of his intention to take his life.

The court heard neither Booth Taylor nor the boat had since been found.

Counsel for Boland, opening the case, said Mr Booth Taylor had been in a relationship with a woman and it had turned sour.

Counsel said Booth Taylor had left what had appeared to be a suicide note.

Boland told Judge Mahon that Booth Taylor had been authorised to take the boat from time to time and had always asked for his permission to do so, but he did not have permission to take it at the time he and the boat had disappeared.

Boland said that when informed that the boat had been taken he had told the marina and the local police.

The court heard the police had searched for Booth Taylor and the boat for months.

“I have not seen or heard from Sandy since,” Mr Boland said.

“He had a key to open the padlock.  I wanted him to have access to the boat and it was also a rule of the marina to have a key holder on site.”

He said Booth Taylor, who was from Scotland, had his authorisation to use the boat. He was a very capable sailor and had done a lot of sailing around the islands of La Graciosa and Los Lobos.

“He was a trustworthy person and I asked him to look after the boat just like you would ask your next-door neighbour to look after your house while you’re on holiday,” Boland told the court.

The court heard that the insurance company, Allianz Plc, of Elm Park Merrion Road, Dublin, had refused to indemnify Mr Boland for the loss. 

The company denied the boat had been stolen in a “forcible entry” because Booth Taylor had a key to access the padlock.

Counsel for Allianz told Judge Mahon that Booth Taylor had access to the interior of the boat and had Mr Boland’s permission to be inside it. 

Booth Taylor’s  access to the boat was legitimate and although he had disobeyed Mr Boland’s trust, unfortunately it was not covered by the terms of the insurance policy.

Judge Mahon, awarding Mr Boland €38,000 damages, said Mr Booth Taylor had taken the boat without its owner’s consent.   It had been assumed he had taken the boat to sea to take his life by sinking the vessel.

“I am entirely satisfied it is reasonable to accept that Mr Booth Taylor entered the boat by unlocking the padlock to open the hatch, with the intention of stealing it,” Judge Mahon said.

•          Scottish newspapers The Scotsman and Sunday Mail in September 2011 described 61-year-old father of two, Booth Taylor, as the former landlord of the Aberdeenshire pub, Pennan Inn, made famous in a cult Scottish film “Local Hero” starring Burt Lancaster.

•          They stated he had gone to Lanzarote after his marriage had broken up and that in 2011 the U.K. Foreign Office had been investigating Booth Taylor’s disappearance.  They reported the Guardia Civil to be investigating the possibility Booth Taylor had committed suicide as well as the theory he suffered an accident.

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