Just weeks before notorious B.C. skipper John Philip Stirling was caught near Colombia on a boat full of cocaine, he sent his neighbour in Chase — a community in B.C.'s Shuswap region — photos of himself lying on the floor beside a giant pile of money.
In the accompanying email, Stirling told Shawn Martin that he wouldn't repay cash he owed him despite being flush after a recent trip to the South American cocaine centre.
Bizarre details of Stirling's feud with his neighbours, Martin and his mother Myrna Beckman, over loans totalling $30,000 are laid out in a suit and counter-suit filed in August and September in Kamloops Supreme Court and obtained the Vancouver Sun.
Stirling was arrested by the U.S. Coast Guard on Oct. 18 just north of Colombia with 400 kilograms of cocaine secreted aboard his sailboat. He is currently detained in a Miami Detention Centre where he told officials "there was nothing wrong with cocaine trafficking and that the United States should mind its own business."
"He further remarked that if Canada didn't have such high taxes, (he and his co-accused) could get legitimate jobs."
If allegations in the B.C. court documents are accurate, some in the town of 2,500 were aware of Stirling's plan to import cocaine.
Martin and Beckman, who live down the road from Stirling and his wife Marlene, say in their court claim they heard at a barbecue last March "that the plaintiff John Stirling was in Colombia setting up a massive cocaine deal."
Martin and Beckman said their efforts to get repayment on several loans to the Stirlings were met with threats and harassment.
They also said accusations by the Stirlings that the neighbours were the aggressors in the dispute are ridiculous — Martin has dwarfism and gets around with crutches and a wheelchair; his mother, 63, is his caregiver.
Both Martin and Beckman declined to comment to the Sun because their case is before the courts. Marlene Stirling did not return calls.
The documents show that Stirling, a 60-year-old convicted cocaine trafficker, struck first against his neighbours, filing a suit on Aug. 29 asking for $10 million in damages.
Stirling said in a brief synopsis that over the last two years, his disabled neighbour and mom have threatened the Stirlings "with bodily harm and death."
"The defendants have written the plaintiffs blackmail letters for money," Stirling wrote. "The defendants have caused anxiety, depression, stress, loss of sleep requiring medical care to the petitioners.
"The defendants have caused travel to become necessary from Colombia for John Stirling at great expense and loss from work to protect his family . . . The defendants have or have attempted to hire Hells Angels to cause murder or physical harm to the plaintiffs and have made statements by phone and email of that intent," the Stirling claim said.
The neighbours fired back in a detailed defence filed Sept. 14, denying all the allegations and making a counter-claim.
They said that, unlike Stirling, they have no criminal record and no connection to the notorious biker gang.
"The defendants do not know any Hells Angels or Hells Angels associates and have never had dealings with them or hired them to do anything," Martin and Beckman said, adding the only information they have about the Angels came from the Stirlings themselves.
"The plaintiff Marlene Stirling also told the defendants that two Hells Angels members sat at her kitchen table and had coffee on multiple different times," the documents said.
They said they learned in an Internet search of Stirling's 2001 bust on his fishing boat, the Western Wind, with 2.5 tonnes of cocaine owned by the Hells Angels. He was never charged.
Tensions escalated between the former friends in August, when Stirling "was back from Colombia and was bragging that he had two suitcases full of money containing in excess of $200,000," the mother-son team said.
Martin fired off an email, "asking John to pay the rest of the money the plaintiffs owed the defendants for loans from June 1, 2007, to Feb. 23, 2011."
On Aug. 23, Stirling sent his neighbours "an email with a picture of him laying on the floor of his Adams' Lake residence with a pile of money in front of him, holding a piece of paper with Aug. 19, 2011, written on it," the claim said.
The email said: "I told you if you waited you would have got paid, but since you didn't, you will never receive a dime and everyone else has been paid back for their investment but you."
They said Stirling warned them that he would go to court and ruin them if they didn't back off.
"The defendants have videotape evidence of the plaintiff John Stirling threatening to kill more than one person at gunpoint," the documents said.
"On Sept. 10, 2011, the defendants were informed that the plaintiff John Stirling has been seeking to hire people to burn down the defendants' house and cause physical harm to them."
Martin and Beckman said "a man calling himself Ryan showed up at the defendants' residence wearing a black leather jacket with a Hells Angel patch and was looking for the plaintiff John Stirling because John apparently owed this guy Ryan money."
Martin said in the court statement that he called Stirlings' house and warned Marlene that someone was looking for John "and that he sounded really p—ed off."