€350m smugglers had to use cocaine when boat ran out of food
BUNGLING smugglers were caught with €350m worth of Colombian cocaine off the Irish coast after their support vessel ran out of petrol in the Irish Sea and they ran out of food halfway across the Atlantic - forcing them to use cocaine to fend off the hunger pangs.
One member of the Makayabella crew was so upset over the lack of food he started using cocaine from one of the 41 bales on board to fend off hunger.
Authorities had earlier become suspicious of the yacht's presence in the Caribbean after one crew member was rescued from a dinghy after getting high on cocaine.
Three UK nationals, John Powell (71), Benjamin Mellor (35) and Thomas Britteon (28), were jailed for a total of 26 years for their role in one of Ireland's biggest drug swoops.
The seizure last September off the Cork coast of the ocean-going yacht, Makayabella, was hailed by Judge Sean O Donnabhain in Cork Circuit Criminal Court as proving: "There is no hiding place for drug importers."
The haul was initially valued at €80m, but such was the purity of the drugs at 70pc it is now estimated to have a street value of between €300m and €350m.
Inspector Fergal Foley said the seizure followed major co-operation between Ireland and other countries.
He revealed gardai became suspicious when another yacht, Sea Breeze, had to be rescued by the RNLI 18 miles off Rosslare after running out of petrol.
On board the Sea Breeze was John Powell's son, Stephen, who last December was handed a 16-year prison sentence in the UK for conspiracy to smuggle drugs.
Inspector Foley said Stephen Powell was the mastermind behind the shipment.
He had involved his father, an elderly widower, with the promise of a six-figure sum.
Mellor and Britteon, both hired hands, were promised £100,000 and £20,000 respectively. The Sea Breeze had to be rescued after running out of petrol and then the Makayabella ran out of food.
Mellor was so starved he began using cocaine from one bale to fend off hunger pangs.
The 28-year-old yacht was stopped and boarded by the Naval Service 250km off the Mizen Head on September 23 last.
Powell, of 10 Airedale Mews, Silsden, West Yorkshire, UK, was jailed for 10 years despite his defence team saying a lengthy prison term was "akin to a life sentence" given his age and health problems.
Britteon, of 120 Convamore Road, Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, UK, and Mellor of Manningham, Moringtom Villas, Bradford, Yorkshire, UK, were both jailed for eight years.