THE Court of Criminal Appeal has reserved judgement in a case brought by an English police killer who was jailed for 30 years for his role in the biggest drugs haul in the history of the State.
Perry Wharrie (53), who was a member of an armed gang that killed a police constable in 1988, received the longest sentence ever handed down in Ireland for a drugs case for his part in the bungled smuggling of €440 million worth of cocaine at Dunlough Bay, Mizen Head, Co Cork on July 2nd, 2007.
After hearing almost two days worth of submissions on Wharrie’s appeal against his conviction and sentence, the three-judge court said this afternoon that it would return judgement at a later date.
Wharrie, from Loughton in Essex, was unanimously found guilty in July 2008 by a Cork Circuit Criminal Court jury who considered evidence from 300 witnesses over the course of a trial that lasted 42 working days.
Martin Wandan and Joseph Daly, Wharrie’s co-accused and fellow British nationals, were sentenced to 30 years and 25 years respectively for the same offence of possession of drugs for sale or supply, to which all three men had pleaded not guilty.
The case began when a rigid inflatable boat carrying 1.5 tonnes of cocaine got in to difficulties off the south-west coast after one of its petrol engines was filled with diesel, causing the craft to flounder and sink in unseasonably rough July seas.
The cocaine had been transferred to the RIB from a Catamaran named “Lucky day” after a rendezvous at a buoy 30 miles off the Cork Coast.
Life boat crews who came to the aid of the sinking RIB found Martin Wandan floating in the sea encircled by 65 bales of cocaine, which was subsequently found to be 75 per cent pure.
There was evidence at the trial that customs officials who went to Dunlough Bay came across Wharrie and Daly making their up from the cliffs. Both men were arrested two days later.
Counsel for Wharrie, Mr Michael O’Higgins SC, said the appeal relied on a number of grounds, including a submission that a Sunday World article by columnist Amanda Brunker published during the trial “interfered” with Wharrie’s defence.
Other grounds included a contention that inaccurate material was put before a peace commissioner asked to issue a search warrant in the case, issues surrounding the trial judge’s charge to the jury on what constitutes possession, and whether certain CCTV footage should have been replayed to the jury.
Presiding judge Mr Justice John MacMenamin, sitting with Mr Justice Eamon deValera and Mr Justice Brian McGovern, said the court would deliver its decision as soon as possible.
In 1989, Wharrie, with two other men, was convicted in connection with the shooting dead of off-duty police officer PC Frank Mason (27), who had intervened during an armed robbery. During a struggle, a single shot was fired by another party which killed PC Mason.
Wharrie was given a life sentence for the officer's murder and received concurrent sentences for robbery and firearms offences. He was freed on licence in 2005 having served 17 years and will be extradited to the United Kingdom to serve the balance of the life term at the expiration of his sentence here.