A former spy, bodyguard, stuntman and self-confessed forger of paintings is attempting to fund the raising of the Irish Asgard II ship by auctioning his painting of the famous ruin.
Londoner Martin Bengtsson (76) lives in seclusion in a remote part of Co Cork with his 50 cats and dogs and is currently having a film made about his life story. "It is being shot by a Belfast film production company and they have been up here with me a few times shooting the pilot parts of the film. I have had a very chequered past which the production company took interest in when they read my autobiography," he said.
Bengtsson's autobiography, If You're Not In Bed By Ten, Come Home – named after advice given to him by his father – was a bestseller in Ireland when it first came out and may yet be published worldwide.
He says he wants to join the plight of those trying to raise the Asgard II after seeing a picture of the ship, and reading about the numerous requests to the government to raise the vessel in the Sunday Tribune last May.
"I have done a lot of things in my life in which I have come out as the bad guy, and when I die I want to leave with a little credit so I am going to auction a painting, done in my usual 19th century forgery style, and set up a fund to try and get the ship raised."
Asgard II sank 22km off the coast of France while on a training run to La Rochelle on September in 2008. Two underwater video surveys last year found that it would not be economically viable to raise the ship, with estimated costs being in the region of €2m. "It may not be a successful endeavor, but it is something I want to do," Bengtsson said.
Defence minister Willie O'Dea has previously turned down an offer by a project-management company to buy the ship for €1 and then sell it back to the state after it was salvaged.
Bengtsson hopes to raise funds on the back of his notoriety, but will continue to live in seclusion on his mountain farm, he has said.
"I'm 76 now. I've spent most of my life sailing against the wind. I'm happy here in my broken-down farm on my own but I want to finally do something positive and not mischievous at all."