Accused: Simon Charles Golding appears at the inquest of missing Coffs Harbour yachtsman Andrew Witton last year.
Accused: Simon Charles Golding appears at the inquest of missing Coffs Harbour yachtsman Andrew Witton last year.

Coffs link to huge drug haul

SIMON Charles Golding, the last man to see a Coffs Harbour sailor who disappeared at sea in 2007, is one of three men charged over the third-largest drug haul in Australian history.

The 41-year-old, who gave evidence at the inquest of Andrew Witton last year, is charged with helping to smuggle half-a-tonne of cocaine into Brisbane, worth more than $160 million.

The Australian Federal Police and Customs uncovered the 496- kilogram drug cargo on a yacht docked at Scarborough Marina at Redcliffe, just north of Brisbane on Wednesday.

The United States Drug Enforcement Agency tipped off the AFP late last week that a catamaran carrying cocaine had left South America and was destined to rendezvous with another smaller vessel, referred to by police as a daughter ship, in waters off Australia to transfer the drugs.

Golding, who lives in the inner Sydney suburb of Waterloo, has faced court along with two other men, Geoffrey Stuart Triplett, 38, and Terrance Elfar, 49, from Eden.

He is charged with importing or exporting commercial quantities of border controlled drugs.

Golding was Mr Witton’s crewman on board his yacht Kaileia, when he disappeared on or about January 13, 2007, in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean, about 600km south of Pitcairn Island.

A coronial inquest was heard last year into his mysterious death, despite the fact his body has never been found.

After The Advocate published the story on Mr Witton’s disappearance, Golding wrote a letter to the editor explaining the ordeal.

He wrote of sleepless days and nights, massive health complications and a terrifying 45-day ordeal at sea alone aboard the yacht.

“When I stopped searching for Andy, it was the hardest decision I have ever had to make. I had not slept in days and found myself in a 61-knot storm (64 knots is a cyclone),” he wrote. “I had to deal with no fresh water, a sinking vessel, motor problems, torn sails and sailing a 55m yacht on my own for 45 days with very little sleep, and this is just to mention the main problems.”

He said the disappearance was investigated when he made it to the Galapagos Islands.

“Toward the end of these investigations, many months later, I found myself in a mainland South American hospital, paralysed, blind and dying as a result of complications and injuries caused directly from the stricken voyage,” he wrote.

Appearing in the Queensland Magistrates Court in Brisbane on Wednesday, Golding did not apply for bail and is due to reappear on November 5.

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