Cocaine RIB had 'unusually big engines', court hears

Diesel instead of petrol was put into the powerful engines on the RIB boat that was found at the scene of the biggest drugs seizure in the history of the state, the expert who examined the wreckage said today.

Diesel instead of petrol was put into the powerful engines on the RIB boat that was found at the scene of the biggest drugs seizure in the history of the state, the expert who examined the wreckage said today.

Ireland’s biggest-ever drugs trial related to drugs with an estimated value of €440m has heard extensive evidence today in relation to the semi-submerged boat that was found in Dunlough Bay in West Cork on July 2, 2007.

Three Englishmen, Perry Wharrie (aged 48), of 60 Pyrles Lane, Essex, England, Joseph Daly (aged 41), from 9 Carrisbrook Avenue, Bexley, Kent, and Martin Wanden (aged 45), of no fixed abode, all deny the charges 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, 2007 at Dunlough Bay, Mizen, Goleen, Co Cork.

The first evidence heard today in relation to the RIB was from Colm Harrington who was asked by Customs and Excise to salvage the semi-submerged RIB in Dunlough Bay last July 2.

Mr Harrington, who operates a salvage company, towed the craft to Castletownbere as the waters at Dunlough Bay were so choppy that it was not possible to salvage it there. The witness said that a crane was used to lift the 7.8 metre RIB out of the water in Castletownbere and put it onto the back of a truck under spotlights at 2am on the morning of July 3.

Mr Harrington told Paddy O’Sullivan, senior Customs and Excise Officer, that he had seen the particular RIB before. The witness had been over in England in mid-June last year at the Sea Works exhibition and on his way back he saw the particular RIB in the car park of the Pembroke car ferry at 3am on the Friday morning.

"I saw a RIB in the car park. I thought it was unusual to see such big engines on it. I passed the remark, ‘this fella must be in an awful hurry with such big engines’," Mr Harrington testified.

Paddy O’Connor, recently retired from the Irish Naval Service, said that when he inspected the RIB at the back of Bandon garda station some of the holes were large enough to put one’s fist through and that the floatation chambers were totally compromised on one side but partly functioning on the other side, resulting in the boat being semi-submerged. He took note of rock rash to the hull of the boat, the term used to describe rock damage to a craft.

The expert found during his survey that several seats had been unscrewed from the boat. He said there was evidence that they had been unscrewed rather than torn out in the course of the damage at sea.

“I thought the engines were particularly big for the craft. The original engine had been removed and these two larger engines had been retro-fitted afterwards,” he said.

Mr O’Carroll SC asked: “Were these engines put on by someone who was foolhardy?”

Mr O’Connor agreed and said: “They were excessively powerful for that craft both weight-wise and horsepower-wise.”

Asked what he thought happened on July 2 2007 with the RIB, Mr O’Connor said: “It (the fuel) was contaminated with diesel which rendered the boat incapable of going anywhere… and it ended up on the rocks and sustained damage.”

The case continues.

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