Drug smugglers rescued off Suffolk coast are jailed

Anthony Reilly and Steven Brogan were jailed at Ipswich Crown Court

Anthony Reilly (left) and Steven Brogan have been jailed - Credit: Suffolk police

Two drug smugglers who made a "daring" trip across the North Sea on a jet ski to pick up £200,000 worth of cocaine and had to be rescued on the return leg have been jailed.

Ipswich Crown Court heard how Steven Brogan, 36, and Anthony Reilly, 34, embarked on an "ambitious" mission from the Lowestoft area to collect drugs from Holland before they ran out of fuel and became stranded. 

A survey boat reported the incident just before 7pm on September 30, 2020, after the pair approached the vessel and asked for fuel some 27 nautical miles off the Suffolk coast. 

The vessel issued a mayday call and a coastguard helicopter and volunteers from Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat ‘Patsy Knight’ attended the scene.

The two men were winched to safety and airlifted to James Paget Hospital in Gorleston. 

One man was showing signs of hypothermia and the other of exhaustion, the court heard. 

Border Force contacted officers from Suffolk police, who discovered two "brick-like" packages of cocaine in a rucksack. 

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Hugh Vass, prosecuting, told the court the 2kg of cocaine was worth an estimated street value of £200,000. 

Mr Vass said that Brogan claimed to officers that he had been "fishing by jet ski but ran into difficulty when they ran out of fuel".

Maps of the North Sea, tide timetables, a mobile phone and other diving equipment was later found in a Citroen van and trailer belonging to Brogan, the court heard. 

The jet ski was used to cross the North Sea

The jet ski used by the pair in the North Sea crossing - Credit: Suffolk police

Mark Stevens, representing Brogan, said his client was a competent boxer who ran into financial difficulties. 

"He lost out on a fight, he had no money coming in, he was asked to do this and foolishly agreed," Mr Stevens said.

Stephen Mather, for Reilly, said his client was a plumber and heating engineer by trade but his business had run into trouble due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Reilly was allowed to read a letter to the court in which he apologised for making a "life-changing" mistake. 

He said he saw the trip as an "instant fix" to his financial problems. 

Recorder Richard Christie QC called the trip a "daring exercise". 

He said: "It was a deliberate and involved enterprise. This was not a casual trip."

He added: "It was only because of the weather that things went badly wrong for you and you were very fortunate to be picked up and at public expense taken to hospital."

Brogan, of Eskbank in Skelmersdale, Lancashire and Reilly of Yewdale in Skelmersdale, Lancashire, were charged with importing class A drugs and pleaded guilty on October 30. 

Appearing for sentence on Tuesday, Brogan was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison and Reilly was handed seven years. 

Detective Inspector Matt Adams, of Suffolk police's East CID, said: "These men acted recklessly and put their lives at risk by crossing the channel to Holland on a jet ski to import class A drugs into Suffolk.

"This incident shows the incredibly dangerous lengths that those involved in the supply of drugs will go to in order to sustain their trade.

"Our compelling evidence and the swift multi-agency response involving Suffolk Constabulary, Border Force, HM Coastguard and the RNLI has resulted in bringing this case before the court and seeing those responsible being brought to justice.

"We hope that this sentence will act as a deterrent to criminals trying to bring drugs into our county.”