A Real 007 Mystery
A Sky Arrow 650T two-seater that
crashed in northeast Turkey May 13, killing two aboard, prompted
some Turkish media to claim the plane -- enroute from Trabzon,
Turkey, to Tabriz, Iran -- was carrying an illegal cargo of
nuclear material, reported MSNBC.
"We have no documentation or information reaffirming the
claims," said Turkey's Trabzon Governor Nuri Okutan said, after
meeting with Iran's Deputy Consul General Mehdi Marzdar.
The aircraft was piloted by Michael Newman of the UK, whose
Spirit Yachts became involved in the filming of the latest Bond
film, Casino Royale, when the production company borrowed a Spirit
54 for filming in Venice. His passenger was Zaka Ulab Bhamgoo.
The plane disappeared soon after taking off from Trabzon airport
Sunday, where it landed to refuel on Thursday and was forced to
wait three days due to bad weather before resuming its trip.
However, according to reports from The Telegraph (UK), as the
wreckage was being recovered My 15, Turkish interior minister Osman
Gunes claimed that Newman and Zaka Ulab Bhamgoo, a former general
for Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistan president, were being trailed by
MIT, the Turkish intelligence services.
A Turkish newspaper added to the intrigue by claiming that
Newman might have been taking nuclear secrets or materials to
It also quoted a hotel owner in Trabzon as saying MIT had sought
information about his two foreign guests and that the Turkish
authorities are looking into the possibility that the men were
The allegations have shocked
Newman's friends and family in Suffolk, where he was co-owner
Spirit Yachts, a successful luxury yacht-building business.
Said Sean McMillan, who ran Spirit Yachts with Newman for 14
years, "It's laughable. It's complete nonsense and sounds to me
like a politician trying to make a name for himself."
McMillan said Newman, 53, was nearing the end of a three-week
"trip of a lifetime," flying his twin-seater Sky Arrow 650T plane
from England to Pakistan with Bhamgoo, an old friend and fellow
With today's political climate, an Englishman and Pakistani
flying into Iran may have raised eyebrows. Newman's family was
waiting to see if alleged claims were being substantiated in any
Added McMillan, "I have known Mick for 15 years. He's not a
political guy and the idea that he was carrying nuclear material or
something is ludicrous and laughable. Something out of James Bond
would have been more believable."
Newman, whose career involved yacht-building and restoration,
was an experienced amateur pilot, as was Bhamgoo, 53. They met
several years ago at a charity flying event, raising money for a
Said McMillan, "Their joint love of planes joined them in a very
close friendship. They had spent time flying in each other's
countries and this was their great adventure from England to
Pakistan. It was Mick's own plane."
"They reckoned it would take three weeks. They had planned it
extremely well but they couldn't plan for catastrophic bad weather
at the wrong moment. From what I can understand, the weather closed
in over the mountains."
Taking off from Turkey, the pair planned to land three times in
Iran to refuel before reaching Pakistan, where they would spend a
few days flying before the plane was shipped back to Britain.
McMillan said they had all the correct documentation and visas.
Newman's eldest son, George, said his father had been planning
the trip for almost three years and described the project as "very
dear to my father's heart."
Last year Mr. and Mrs. Newman and their younger son, William,
sailed a yacht to the Bahamas and then Venice for the shooting of
"Casino Royale" after being contacted by the production company
that wanted to borrow one for the film.
Mrs. Newman doubled for the Bond girl Eva Green on some of the
The Foreign Office in England said it was aware of the
allegations and was working with Turkish authorities to investigate