'Bona fide' delivery crew jailed after £8 million cocaine bust are gearing up for a huge legal fight
Four British yachtsmen who were arrested in Gibraltar in June on charges of drug smuggling are trying to muster support to help them protest their innocence.
Skipper Jonathan Kelway, 57, and his crew: retired banker Trevor Collenette, 56; Martin Genoccio; and his partner Kathryn Burman, met each other through the UK-based agency Crewseekers and delivered a Bénéteau 50 named Gin from St Lucia to Gibraltar on 2 May. On board was a secret compartment just forward of the transom, which had been carefully glassed in and painted to conceal 186 slabs of cocaine with a street value of £8 million. The crew protest that they were completely unaware of the stash on board.
Customs officials reportedly cleared the yacht in at Gibraltar and returned the following day to rummage the boat, when they found the secret compartment. There are photos of the concealed compartment here.
Friends of Trevor Collenette have set up a fighting fund and a website , while Crewseekers have issued a statement saying that Jonathan Kelway is ‘a highly respectable delivery skipper and former sea school owner, and has used our services to advertise for volunteer delivery crew for many years. Jon advertised a trip from St Lucia to Spain via the Azores on 13 Feb 2007 and received over 50 enquiries from interested crew.
‘Trevor, Martin and Kathryn are all bona fide current registered members of Crewseekers and each requested over 35 boat trips before contacting Jon Kelway who then made the decision as to which crew he would select for his delivery trip. The chances of the skipper and three crew members knowing each other before Jon Kelway advertised the trip are extremely remote. We also understand from lawyers that the trip was only taken on by Jon Kelway as a favour for another respectable delivery company, as is often the case at busy times of the year.
‘If any one has sailed with any of the above, or has any information regarding the vessel which we understand from media reports is called “Gin” a Beneteau 50′ sailing yacht, please let us know when we will pass on details to the appropriate authorities. Alternatively please advise the police or customs officials. Details are on our link pages.’
This nightmare situation is disturbingly familiar. In the latest issue of Yachting World, we have an extract from a book by John Packwood, the Isle of Wight skipper who was extradited to Morocco after a drugs bust on a boat he had delivered from the UK months previously. He was later freed on pardon but was never tried and like the others from the delivery crew nine years ago still has an international arrest warrant hanging over him.