Jim Tunstead

'Ghost ship' deaths were freak accident

By Laura Clout

The disappearance of three Australians whose yacht was found adrift on the Great Barrier reef was not murder, but a freak accident, a coroner has ruled.

The catamaran Kaz II was found drifting off the Great Barrier reef in April last year, with no sign of the crew Derek Batten, 56, and brothers Peter, 69, and Jim Tunstead 63. 

A table was laid for a meal, computers and navigation systems were switched on and life jackets were on board but a search by helicopter and boat of the open sea and nearby Whitsunday Islands proved fruitless. 

The crew's fate prompted intense speculation, with theories ranging from pirate attack and insurance fraud to freak weather or a drug deal gone wrong. 

Police said the men were probably swept overboard in rough weather, but relatives insisted they were experienced sailors and it was inconceivable all three could have been knocked into the water.