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Hopes fade for wealthy yachtswoman Mary Unwin, 65, lost at sea

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 16, 2012

  • Mary Unwin is feared dead after parts of her newly bought yacht were washed up on rocks in West Cornwall

  • Wreckage from a small yacht has been found in Sennen Cove, where an air and sea search was taking place

  • A police car outside of Mary Unwin's home in Bideford

  • The yacht Seagair which was bought just days before it set sail

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A missing millionairess is feared dead after large chunks of her newly-bought yacht were washed up on rocks in West Cornwall and rescuers conceded her chances of survival were "virtually non-existent".

Ona Mary Unwin – known as Mary – bought the secondhand yacht Seagair from Falmouth on Thursday and after apparently rejecting advice about the treacherous weather forecast, she set sail.

The 65-year-old is known to have left Mousehole, near Newlyn, on Saturday with the intention of rounding the notorious Land's End before sailing to her home in Bideford, North Devon.

However, when she failed to arrive on Sunday night, her husband Carol Unwin, who she divorced only to remarry on October 5, raised the alarm.

Yesterday, wreckage from a yacht of the same type as Seagair was found washed up at Sennen Cove near to Land's End.

As the major search operation scaled down last night, a spokesman for Falmouth Coastguard said that teams today would be focused on recovering a body rather than looking for a survivor.

"It is a fact that the longer a search goes on the less chances you have of finding a survivor," he said.

"If the vessel came to grief on late Saturday night, which is what we believe, the chances of survival obviously diminish over time.

"Had a person gone into the water on Saturday and if they had good survival equipment like a life raft or an immersion suit, their chances of survival by now would be virtually non-existent."

Coastguards had previously said there was no beacon registered to the vessel and it was unclear whether there was a working radio or a life raft on board.

Wreckage which was washed up yesterday at Sennen was positively identified as that of a Moody, the same type of yacht as Seagair.

The spokesman for Falmouth coastguard added: "It has not been confirmed that the yacht is Seagair, but there have been a number of bits and pieces washed up, including a fairly sizeable part of the cockpit."

Lifeboats from Penlee, Sennen and St Ives and helicopters from RNAS Culdrose and RMB Chivenor were all involved in the search.

Inspector Dave Meredith from Devon and Cornwall Police said all the wreckage was being stored in a boathouse near Sennen and would be used for the official investigation.

He said there was a continuing police presence in the area and they had not given up hope.

"As time goes on, our concerns for the welfare of Mrs Unwin grow, but we are always hopeful that we will find her alive."

Mrs Unwin was accompanied by her husband when she bought the vessel from Falmouth Yacht Brokers using a £32,000 banker's draft last week.

She sailed off alone despite advice to the contrary from the firm's proprietor, Jayne Hobkirk, who said: "She said she had a captain's ticket, but it sounded like she hadn't done any sailing for many years.

"I told her to get a refresher course, but that would normally take some days."

Jerry Hobkirk, also from the company, said Mrs Unwin also appeared to have ignored advice about the terrible weather which was forecast.

He said: "The weather was treacherous this weekend, even for some of the more experienced sailors. I simply cannot understand what she was thinking when she left the harbour (in Mousehole), and against the advice of the sailing school.

"She seemed determined to fail."

Mrs Unwin appeared in a Channel 4 documentary called The Pawn King in 2011, featuring as "the ex-wife of a millionaire who took out a £5,000 loan on her diamond bracelet to tide herself over until her divorce settlement comes through".

In the documentary, she is seen driving an Aston Martin.

She says: "I have my favourite bracelet. It is 11 carats, set in platinum.

"Bought new it would cost £27,000 but you can't eat a bracelet.

"It is no good living in a nice home having nice things if you can't pay your bills. It is my little bit of treasure and I feel naked without it.

"I just like nice things, who doesn't like nice things?"

She remarried her millionaire husband Carol, 61, just ten days before he bought her the boat. They lived in a one-storey gated property called Coastal Hideaway in a leafy part of Bideford.

Neighbour Graham Ash, 74, said: "We have only just moved here and I have seen her around in a Union Jack Mini Cooper.

"I believe they were re-married around ten days ago. I have spoken to the husband Carol and he is a very nice chap. We speak when I cut my hedges and he comes over to chat. Most of the time we have been here Mary hasn't been living in the house.

"I believe she is originally Welsh."

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  • Regennotdegen  |  October 17 2012, 10:01AM

    My sympathy to her family but she really does seem to have brought this on herself by ignoring expert advice. It's people like this who risk the lives of all the members of the rescue services unnecessarily. Not to mention the expense of 2 Helicopters and 3 Lifeboats having to search for Her.

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