London, July 21:

A British judge has thrown out charges against three men accused of manslaughter over a young mountaineer’s death on Mount Everest.

Judge Geoffrey Rivlin said yesterday that the death of Michael Matthews, 22, in May 1999 was a “tragic accident.” Matthews, a London financial trader, became the first Briton to scale the world’s highest peak, but disappeared during his descent.

His body has never been found. His father David Matthews brought a private prosecution against guide Michael Smith, trip organiser Jonathan Tinker and Henry Todd, who supplied the oxygen, accusing them of negligence. He claimed his son had been poorly trained, given faulty oxygen cylinders and was abandoned by his guide as he descended the peak.

But Rivlin, sitting at London’s Southwark Crown Court, said the prosecution case was built on “pure and wholly impermissible speculation” and ordered the case dismissed.

“All the evidence shows that (Matthews’) death was truly one of the many tragic accidents for which Mount Everest and the forces of nature that play with such deadly effect upon its summit have become deservedly notorious,” the judge said.