Three plead not guilty in biggest-ever drugs trial

The biggest drugs trial in the history of the State relating to the seizure of over €100m worth of cocaine off the coast of West Cork last Summer commenced in Cork city today.

Three Englishmen, Perry Wharrie (aged 48), of 60 Pryles Lane, Essex, England, Joseph Daly (aged 41), from 9 Carisbrook Avenue, Bexley, Kent, and Martin Wanden (aged 45), who is also English but has no fixed abode, all pleaded not guilty yesterday to the charges against them at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

The three men are accused of possessing cocaine, possessing it with intent to sell or supply, and having it for sale or supply when its street value exceeded €13,000 on July 2, at Dunlough Bay, Mizen, Goleen, Co Cork.

A jury of nine men and three women was sworn in to hear the case before Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin.

"It is estimated that this case could take up to ten weeks. It is a matter of considerable commitment. If you have real difficulties you will be excused," Judge Ó Donnabháin told the panel before the swearing in of the jury.

The judge also warned the jury panelists that they should not serve on the jury if had connections in a number of key areas in West Cork, or knew members of An Garda Siochána in Bantry, Clonakilty or Schull.

Judge Ó Donnabháin also said witnesses would be called from the Coastguard based in Goleen, members of customs drugs unit, the Naval service, the crews of Castletownbere and Baltimore lifeboats, who were involved in a search, and staff of the Ramada Hotel in Blarney.

Judge Ó Donnabháin told the jury: "This case has now formally started. It is in your charge. You and you alone will be the people who will decide the case."

Legal discussions in the absence of the jury continued this afternoon.

They jury will return on Monday morning at 10.30am, May 26.

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