Tragic trawlerman was hit hard by six friends' deaths in sea accident

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan at the Scrap The Cap rally, held in Guildhall Square

Hundreds turn out for Scrap The Cap rally

A popular former trawlerman found dead near a pond was haunted by the deaths of colleagues in an accident a decade ago.

Former skipper Andrew 'AB' Bartlett, whose body was discovered near Baffins pond, in Baffins, on Christmas Eve, was devastated when six of his close friends died in a tragic accident at sea in 1991.

Dennis Grantham was an engineer on board the 44-year-old's trawler, and said Mr Bartlett - a father of two known to friends as AB - was one of the finest fishermen he had worked with.

The two men worked together on board the Weracken, a trawler owned by Portsmouth-based company Johnson's Sea Enterprises.

Mr Grantham said his friend was hit hard when the Weracken's sister ship, the 50ft trawler Wilhelmina J, sank in April 1991 after colliding with a cargo vessel in the English Channel.

Mr Grantham, 66, of Lowestoft Road, Wymering, said: 'There's no counselling for fishermen. You just have to brush yourself off and get back out there. But all those boys were AB's friends, they were like a family, and nothing was the same after what happened.'

Mr Grantham added that scalloping - which Mr Bartlett had been known for - was renowned for being the most dangerous fishing done anywhere in the UK.

He said: 'It's perilous work often done in atrocious weather and AB always looked after his crew. He had the respect of every fisherman who knew him for being a top skipper with unblemished safety record.

'He was known right along the south coast as one of the best skippers to ever sail out of Camber Dock.

'His loss is being felt throughout the fishing community. I've only met a handful of people in my life who I would say were truly great fishermen, but AB was one of them. He was second to none. AB never had a bad word to say about anybody.

'And in all my life I never sailed with a better fisherman.'

Mr Bartlett, who lived in Chesterfield Road, near Baffins pond, was found on the path at the water's edge.

Police believe he had been in the pond, and are not treating his death as suspicious.