Multi-millionaire divorcee feared dead after defying coastguards to sail brand new luxury yacht on treacherous seas

October 15, 2012 | by | 0 Comments

A daring multi-millionaire divorcee is missing feared dead after she bought a yacht and sailed it away the same day – despite warnings from coastguards.

Eccentric Mary Unwin – known as Mary – bought the second-hand £32,000 yacht on Thursday but refused to take a refresher sailing course.

Mary, the ex-wife of a multi-millionaire property developer, sailed away from the marina in Mousehole, Cornwall, and headed back to her home in Bideford, Devon.

Mary Unwin from Bideford who has gone missing after buying a yacht in Cornwall and sailing it on the same day

Mary Unwin from Bideford who has gone missing after buying a yacht in Cornwall and sailing it on the same day

Local sailors warned Mary she would not be able to handle the journey alone but she ignored them and sailed off.

Mary – who featured in a TV documentary as a millionairess divorcee – was last seen by marina workers who slipped her boat’s moorings on Saturday at 6.30pm.

Search helicopters and lifeboats are still scouring her 120-mile planned route to find the 30ft missing ship – but have already found parts of wreckage.

Steve Huxley, search and rescue manager at Falmouth Coastguard, said she “hadn’t been sailing for a few years”.

He said: “The woman departed Mousehole on Saturday evening on board her newly-purchased vessel.

The yacht Seagair which was bought by Mary for more than £30k

The yacht Seagair which was bought by Mary for more than £30k

“We understand that she was heading for Bideford. We have been unable to find her and are very concerned for her safety.

”There’s possibly a radio onboard that doesn’t work. We know there is no beacon registered to that boat. We don’t know if she has a life raft onboard.

“We’ve put out a broadcast to shipping, we’ve got an air search and rescue operation, and we’ve got our teams out trying to gather intelligence.

“We are treating this very urgently. We are expecting the weather to deteriorate.”

Mary appeared on a Channel 4 documentary called ‘The Pawn King’ in 2011.

She featured 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”.

The program described how she had lived with her husband in a ten bedroomed house in 2005 but since the divorce she was “finding it hard to adjust”.

She bought the £32,000 Seagair, a Moody yacht which is with a blue stripe, from Falmouth Yacht Brokers on Thursday.

Staff say she visited the ship yard with her new husband and paid with a banker’s draft.

The home of Mary Unwin in Bideford, Devon, where she lived before going missing on her yacht

The home of Mary Unwin in Bideford, Devon, where she lived before going missing on her yacht

Ms Unwin left Falmouth on her own in the yacht on Friday without collecting paperwork and then left Mousehole on Saturday.

It is thought her husband had driven home to Devon and was waiting for her but she never arrived and he raised the alarm.

Jayne Hobkirk, from the ship brokers, said the couple paid with a bankers draft.

She said: “They were just a nice middle-aged couple who were looking for a nice boat to do some coastal cruising in.

“She didn’t say anything about any trips. I haven’t spoken to her husband since.

“She said she had a captain’s ticket, but it sounded like she hadn’t done any sailing for sometime.

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

Ian Guy, watch manager at Falmouth Coastguard, said she may not be near her original course.

He said: “Bits of debris have been found but they could just be bits of wood from anywhere.”

Lifeboats from Penlee, Sennen and St Ives and helicopters from RNAS Culdrose and RMB Chivenor have joined the search.

Among the volunteer RNLI members helping was Paul Wiston, a retained coxswain of the St Ives lifeboat.

He said: “We launched at ten to three and we returned at around ten to six.  We didn’t find anything.

“We were tasked by Falmouth Coastguard to search close in shore between Godrevy point and Pendeen light.

“The wind direction was western force five with a maximum swell of about 1.5 metres.

“I wouldn’t like to think what it would be like for someone out there in a yacht. She could be anywhere. She may have changed her plan.  It is just not possible to guess.

“The rescue helicopters are out searching. Obviously they can see a much bigger area now it is light.”

The Seagair, built in 1985, was described by the brokers as having been “maintained in excellent condition” and “in great condition for her age”.

David Rayment, coxswain of the Penlee lifeboat, said: “We don’t know where she went, so it’s a big area to search, but we had no sightings at all.”

* In the documentary, Mary 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?”

The narrator says that “during her last marriage, Mary lived in a 10 bedroomed house. Since her divorce she is finding it hard to adjust.”

She said: “I pawned this {diamond ring] originally to buy an Aston Martin because when I came home to do the sums I was about #5,000 short.

“I had fallen in love with the Aston Martin and wanted it, so why not. Since when do ladies want to wait for anything?

“I sadly had to sell it but who knows, one day I might get another one. But I’ve had two anyway.

“There should be government help for people who are temporarily financially embarrassed. And why not?”

Meanwhile, it emerged that Mrs Unwin remarried her millionaire husband Carol , 61, just ten days before he bought her the boat.

Mr and Mrs Unwin lived in a one-storey gated property called Coastal Hideaway in a leafy part of Bideford.

Neighbours also say police had recently been seen at the house several times.

Coastguards have found more boat wreckage off Sennen Cover near Land’s End – just 25 miles from Mousehole where she sailed from.

Neighbour Graham Ash, 74, said she had re-married her husband ten days ago.

He said: “We have only just moved here and I have seen here 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, at least she talks with a Welsh accent.”

Another neighbour said it was the second time the couple had been married.

He said: “I saw a police car outside their home this morning but that is nothing unusual.

”I think the police would tell you they have been at the house several times and they only moved in recently.

“There were some problems after they had been here for a while and, as we understood it, she moved away to the Isle of Man for a while and came back around three months ago.”

A coastguard spokesman said there was a “high possibility” that further pieces of debris found in the Sennen Cove area, near Lands End, were from the missing yacht.

He said: “Lifeboats have found quite a lot there.  The pieces can’t positively be identified as coming from our overdue yacht but it’s quite a high possibility at the moment.”

The search for Mary Unwin was called off at 5pm yesterday (Mon).

Ian Guy, watch manager at Falmouth Coastguard, said more debris had been found.

He said: “It’s not 100 per cent confirmed that the debris found is from the yacht we are looking for but we are fairly confident.

“Looking at the time elapsed, it is at least 30 hours. That time in the water is well beyond what we would consider survivable.

“It doesn’t look good. We have no current plans to continue the search.  That may be reviewed tomorrow.”

Category: News

Add your comment

Libellous and abusive comments are not allowed. Please read our House Rules

For information about privacy and cookies please read our Privacy Policy