A GERMAN who calls himself King Marduk has laid claim to a fort off the Essex coast owned by a Leigh fisherman.

The self-styled sovereign has claimed Sealand as his kingdom, saying it was not mentioned in treaties after the Second World War and so can be claimed by anyone.

The disused anti-aircraft platform seven miles off the coast, at the entrance to the Thames Estuary, is owned by Michael Bates and run as an offshore base for computer firms offering secure internet facilities. The fort, which has a chequered history, was owned by Mr Bates’ father Roy.

Mr Bates junior, 56, said the would-be king was an “imposter”.

He said: “The principality has no knowledge of the ‘Kingdom of Marduk’ and has not entered in any negotiations with this principal nor any others of any known connection. Any persons attempting to encroach upon our territories without our permission will be dealt with appropriately.”

King Marduk claims to have several “kingdoms”, in Switzerland, Germany and Austria.

Government documents revealed the Royal Navy once considered blowing Sealand up because it had become an embarrassment after a diplomatic row in 1978.