IN 2011, five men were given a combined 104-year prison sentence for masterminding a £53m drug smuggling operation.

Since known as the Freshwater Five, due to where the cocaine was found, the men have always said they were innocent of any wrong doing.

Two of the men will have their convictions considered by the Court of Appeal this week. Lawyers acting for Jonathan Beere and Daniel Payne will present judges with fresh expert evidence.

What happened to lead to the convictions?

On May 29, 2010, a small fishing boat, the Galwad-Y-Mor, left the Isle of Wight on what the crew claimed was a routine trip to catch lobster and crab in the Channel.

That night, a large drugs operation led by the Serious Organised Crime Agency was taking place, involving surveillance planes, a Border Agency patrol boat and police lookouts along the coast.

The authorities had intelligence that cocaine was being smuggled to Europe from South America on giant cargo ships, such as the container vessel MSC Oriane — one of nine from Brazil of particular interest.

At about midnight, the ship and the fishing boat briefly came close together. The ship went on towards the European mainland, and the Galwad continued home to Yarmouth, past Freshwater Bay.

On the way it stopped for about an hour in Freshwater Bay — the crew said they were fishing for mackerel.

The next day, in the bay, a member of the public spotted 11 sacks tangled around a buoy. Each was found to be packed with a pure form of cocaine.

The prosecution's case was that the sacks were pushed off the side of the container ship for the fishermen to retrieve from the sea, before taking them to the bay to hide or be picked up by another vessel.

The prosecution also pointed to a series of calls made to and from the satellite phone on the Galwad while it was in the Channel, suggesting someone was co-ordinating the drugs drop.

The defence said the timing was a coincidence and someone was just checking on the health of one of the other fishermen who was seasick.

No traces of cocaine were found on the fishing boat, despite it being searched with specialised equipment.

The container ship, the Oriane, was also searched, but no trace of drugs was ever found. No-one on the Oriane was arrested.

What is disputed?

The men continue to say they are innocent.

At the time the fishing boat was said to have hidden the drugs in Freshwater Bay, two officers from Hampshire police were watching from the cliff tops as part of the police operation.

In the officers' logs before the drugs were found, they recorded someone on the fishing boat throwing six or seven items overboard at intervals — which the fishermen say could have been rubbish bags full of old bait.

But the next day, after the drugs were discovered, the police lookouts changed the official log — which they were allowed to do — to clarify what they saw.

In the new version they reported ten to 12 items the size of a holdall, tied together in a line and deployed from the boat followed by a red floating buoy. This new description almost exactly matched the drugs that were picked up by the police boat.

After making the first log entry, they said they had seen extra bags thrown off the boat, so the amended version was the full picture of everything they had recorded that day.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission did look into the case and, though it found inconsistencies in the officers' evidence, decided it was not enough to show they had fabricated their accounts. Complaints against the two officers were dismissed.

What about the new radar evidence?

Two of the men, Beere and Payne, are appealing, saying new radar evidence, which “finally emerged” more than seven years after their trial in 2011, shows the Galwad never crossed behind the Oriane. They say the boats didn't get close enough for the transfer of cocaine.

They also say it shows that another small vessel travelled to Freshwater Bay, where the drugs were recovered, shortly after the Galwad had sailed nearby. The alternative suspect vessel was not known about at trial.

What does the Crown say?

The Crown argues that their convictions are still safe and their submissions opposing the appeals are expected to be begin on Thursday.

Who are the Freshwater Five?

Jamie Green was a fisherman and owner of the boat. He was happily married to Nikki, who has since died from cancer. Father to Maisy, Poppy and Jesse. Green grew up on the Isle of Wight and ran a crab and lobster fishing business. He had been running his own fishing boat for 20 years and had expanded the business with Nikki to supplying London restaurants and fishmongers, as well as exporting to Spain and France.

Zoran Dresic, married to Marina, with three children. He was from Montenegro and came to the UK to earn some extra money to send home. The prosecution’s case was that Dresic, who spoke no English and had little fishing experience, had come with the express purpose of overseeing a drug drop. He was re-tried and re-sentenced in Montenegro as part of his repatriation process, and he returned to Montenegro to be closer to his family four years after conviction.

Jonathan Beere was a scaffolder, married to Sue, dad to Elle, Maisie and Flynn. He wasn't on the boat during the 'drug smuggling' incident. He had had a scaffolding job in Yarmouth, by Jamie’s boat. The case against Beere is that before the fishing trip, he’d gone to Portsmouth to met Dresic, and delivered him to Green. He was painted in court as the onshore organiser.

Dan Payne's main hobby was fishing, although he worked in the building trade prior to his arrest. He worked for Jamie on a casual basis, and had worked together, on and off, for more than ten years. He was released from prison in 2019 and returned to the Island.

Scott Birtwistle was a fisherman. He was released in 2018, having served his sentence. He gave an interview to BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme about the case.