It’s nine years since the crew of Isle of Wight crabber Galwad-Y-Mor found themselves caught up in a police operation to track a smuggling ring, with the fishermen identified as picking up the drug shipment believed to have been dropped overboard from a merchant ship south of the Isle of Wight.
In spite of numerous holes and inconsistencies in the case and long-standing doubt about the guilt of the five men, skipper Jamie Green, crewmen Dan Payne, Zoran Dresic and Scott Birtwhistle, and a friend, Jon Beere were sentenced to a total of 104 years for attempting to smuggle £53 million worth of cocaine that was later found in Freshwater Bay.
From the outset, the group have all protested their innocence and a long campaign has been fought by relatives to clear their names and secure their release from prison.
There have been allegations of serious irregularities in the way the case was handled by the police at the time, with apparent gaps in surveillance, logs lost or spoiled and the likelihood that relevant notes and statements were put together some days after the events.
Now new evidence has come to light that casts even more doubt on the guilt of the men referred to as the Freshwater Five.
An independent marine expert had downloaded radar data from patrol vessel Vigilant, which had been tasked with tracking the suspect merchant ship on passage through the Channel, and this has recently been made available to the team handling the five men’s appeal.
This data is reported to show that the tracks of the merchant vessel and Galwad-Y-Mor did not cross, while it also shows another unidentified vessel making for the position where the cache of drugs was found.
An application is being made by lawyer Emily Bolton and a team at the Centre for Criminal Appeals for the five men to appeal against their convictions on the basis of this new evidence, which lawyers argue should have been made available to the defence in the original trial.
The implication is that if the unidentified boat was a police of customs vessel, those on board could not have seen anything to implicate the crew of Galwad-Y-Mor, otherwise their evidence would have been presented as part of the original case. The Centre for Criminal Appeals team argue that the prosecution case against the Freshwater Five is ‘not credible.’
‘What is most heartbreaking about this case is how long it is taking to put right,’ Emily Bolton said.
The routine fishing trip that resulted in Galwad-Y-Mor and its crew spending the subsequent decade behind bars took place on the 29th May 2010, and yesterday relatives and friends of the five men gathered on the cliffs overlooking Freshwater Bay to raise awareness of what they have always claimed is a gross miscarriage of justice, and as a reminder that the five men are not forgotten.