Alter egos 11 – Dunlough Bay

Dunlough Bay drugs haul

In a week in which there has been a lot of attention on cocaine, it is appropriate to consider Dunlough Bay, a point about as far South and West as you can go in Ireland. It’s a quiet area, with a few villages scattered around its shores, and quite popular for sea fishing in a small way. On the whole, nothing much happened there, until 2007, when it was the scene of what was, at the time, the biggest drugs haul in Ireland.

The weather that July was rough, more like winter storms, and early on morning, a soaking wet Englishman, calling himself Gerald O’Leary, knocked on a cottage door. His explanation that he and two friends had been out on a birthday fishing trip when their rigid inflatable boat (RIB) had capsized seemed plausible, although his claim that his friends would be safe was treated with disdain, and the coastguards were alerted.

Soon a full-scale rescue operation was in progress, and a second man was rescued from the sea and taken to hospital suffering from hypothermia. The coastguards also pulled out 50 or so sealed packages from the water, which turned out to be very high grade cocaine, with an estimated street value of €440,000.

Meanwhile, Joe Daly, an Englishman who had moved to the area several years previously, had reported his son missing, along with a RIB, which Daly junior had borrowed that morning. Police took him to the hospital where he identified the man rescued from the sea as one of his son’s friends, though with a different name than the man had used himself.

Over the following couple of days more men were arrested, including two who had been down by the jetty when the first rescue boats had arrived. They would likely have driven off in their jeep had it not inadvertently been blocked in by one of the rescue vehicles. One turned out to be Joe Daly’s boy.

The pier

A second vehicle picked up during the investigation contained a passport belonging to a Gerald Hagan, who was in fact the man who had first called for help. His false passport had taken the name of a dead baby whose birthday was the very day of the rescue. More importantly, that passport led police all the way across the Atlantic to the Caribbean.

They were able to place Hagan, under the name O’Leary, on board a catamaran called the Lucky Day in Barbados a couple of months earlier. Examination of phone calls made from a mobile picked up in one of the cars, allied to GPS tracking, enabled police to track the route of the Lucky Day across the Caribbean and the Atlantic to a point just off the coast of Ireland.

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After the launch of an international search, Spanish police detained the boat as it headed south, and arrested the two crew members. An intensive search of the boat failed to reveal any further contraband, and eventually the two men were released without charge.

Meantime, the men arrested in Ireland were charged. It turned out all had previous criminal records, ranging from assault to the murder of a police officer. All were high on the list of wanted men. Initial hearings in Cork entailed an escort of wailing police sirens and substantial numbers of police guards for the suspects. There were serious concerns that there could be attempts to spring them from custody, such was their importance to the drugs ring that they were part of. In time they were moved to Dublin, where prison security was tighter, and there was a courthouse adjacent to the jail.

The trial did not begin until the following May, by which time police had statements from more than 400 people. Fortunately they were not all called as witnesses. By this time, Joe Daly’s brother, a retired Metropolitan Police detective had been arrested in America following a drugs seizure there.

At the end of a trial lasting over two months, the four men were all found guilty and sentenced to terms of between 25 and 30 years, the longest ever handed down by a judge in Ireland on drugs related charges.

But if it hadn’t been for some unseasonably rough weather they might never have been caught. Then again, they may have been. The local Cork Evening Echo reported senior counsellor in the early stages of the investigation saying, “Some idiot put diesel in the engine when he should have put petrol in it and the engine lost its power and ended up on the rocks.”

Either way, the Lucky Day wasn’t, in the end, that lucky.

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Dunlough Bay, who lines up in the 1.45 at Sandown, also has Irish connections. He was bred a little further along the south coast at Coolmore’s Beeches Stud in County Waterford, where he was foaled in May 2006, just a year or so before the spot he was named after had its moment in the spotlight.

Last season he ran in three bumpers for Lawney Hill, where he showed a degree of promise. This season he steps out from the Banbury yard of Paul Webber, and has already shown improvement as a novice hurdler. After finishing second in his first run over the timber at Worcester, he stepped up to take a Class 4 novice event at Lingfield last month, pulling clear easily after the final hurdle.

Today he moves up in class again, and he’ll have to raise his game if he’s to make an impact in this five-runner event. He has a Racing Post Rating of 130, and is up against two higher ranked horses in Le Bec (140) and Taquin Du Seuil (144).

But this is a race that has several top quality horses have won, so if he does come home first, he could raise the profile of the South West tip of Ireland again. He’ll then be able to put his name alongside those See More Business, Neptune Collonges, Inglis Drever and Fingal Bay who all went on to better things.

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