London: A 13-feet motorboat named as a joke after Osama bin Laden has suddenly attracted the attention of police and the Ministry of Defence.
When his young sons wanted to give the family boat a ‘silly name’, Laurence Godfrey was happy to let children be children.
So the boat was proudly hand-painted with the name “Bin Laden 1” by his son Dylan, then aged 11. He had heard the name on TV and thought it was funny.
Godfrey said he had been told he must change the name because it could allegedly cause a threat to security at the Olympics.
Despite the family using it for two years without complaint, they were stopped by police after landing at Greenwich Yacht Club following a trip on the Thames last weekend.
The physicist had taken his son Waylan, Dylan, and Dylan’s 13-year-old schoolfriend along the river to see Tower Bridge.
He was surprised to see a police boat with lights flashing pull up at the yacht club as they put Bin Laden 1 on to a trailer.
“Do you seriously think a terrorist would paint Bin Laden on the side of his boat?” the Daily Mail quoted Godfrey as telling the Met.
The 59-year-old said that officers told him they had been alerted by the Ministry of Defence and warned him to change the boat’s name “before the Olympics”.
“Until they started shouting at me I assumed the police boat was nothing to do with me,’ he said.
“One of the officers said, 'Stay where you are!' It frightened the life out of the children.”
“The first question they asked me was, 'Why did you call the boat Bin Laden?' I said, 'That’s its name'. When they asked me why, I said, 'You better ask my children because that’s who named it',” he said.
Godfrey claimed officers told him he ‘could not call his boat Bin Laden’ and would have to change the name ‘for Olympic security’.
“Do you seriously think a terrorist would paint Bin Laden on the side of his boat? They made it clear if I went out again without changing the name I would be stopped again. It was thoroughly unpleasant.”
“I believe I’m entitled to any name, unless it is offensive or has HMS in front of it. I must have been past 500 police vessels on the Thames in the past few years. It has never offended any one of them,” Godfrey said.
Godfrey, from Hertfordshire, added that calling the boat Bin Laden ‘was silly and childish – but they are children, so that is hardly surprising’.
The MoD confirmed that a member of staff had alerted police.
“Officers spoke to the owner. No crime was recorded and there were no arrests. The name of the boat is entirely a matter for the owner and we can only give words of advice,” a Met Police spokesman said.
“It may be that not everybody will share his sense of humour,” the source added.
First Published: Saturday, May 19, 2012, 13:25