A BOAT owner has admitted breaching safety laws after two fishermen died of carbon monoxide poisoning in North Yorkshire.

Mark Arries, 26, and Edward Ide, 21, were found dead on the fishing vessel Eshcol when it was moored in Whitby harbour in January 2014. They had been using the grill of a gas cooker to warm the boat while they slept.

A trial of issue at Leeds Crown Court heard on Monday that boat owner Timothy Bowman-Davies, 44, from Haverford West, Pembrokeshire, knew the pair were using the cooker as a heating source. He admitted failing to ensure the ship was operated safely and that work equipment was maintained efficiently.

Judge Tom Bayliss QC said: “Everybody agrees that, if the cooker was being used to heat the boat, then that was dangerous. The central issue is whether Mr Bowman-Davies knew that the cooker or hob was being used as a source of heat. If he thought it was simply being used for cooking, that affects his culpability.”

The court, which is sitting without a jury, heard that Bowman-Davies’s son Jake, who was 15 at the time but is now aged 19, was working on one of the other boats and found the bodies of his colleagues.

He said they had been provided with a fan heater for warmth and could access power from the engine, a generator or an electric hook-up in the harbour, and that he offered the two men a power cable after they moored in Whitby but they refused.

The court heard that he provided two signed witness statements to police shortly after the incident in which he said he and his father were aware of the cooker being used as a heater on the Eshcol but it was only ever used in “short bursts” of 10 to 15 minutes.

But the witness, who had little formal education and has limited reading and writing skills, said he had not told the police this information and had not read the statements before signing them.

He told the court he never saw the cooker being used as a heater and that his father, who did not work on the boats and was only present to transport the fish after unloading, was not aware it was being used that way.

The two-day hearing at Leeds Crown Court continues.