Deceased reggae star Smiley Culture was instrumental in recruiting women from Croydon to traffic drugs for distribution in the UK, a court heard on Monday.

The 80s singer, whose real name was David Emmanuel, organised and planned five trips to Barbados for the drugs mules between summer 2009 and February 2010.

Croydon Crown Court heard he paid all of the women's expenses including their airfares, hotel costs and living expenses.

The evidence was heard in the opening of the trial of Orville Thomas, Courtney Swaby and Mr Emmanuel's daughter, Natara Russell.

All three are accused of smuggling cocaine into the country.

Prosecutor Tom Little told the jury: "Orville Thomas was David Emmanuel's right hand man. He went on four out of the five trips.

"The Crown's case is he was involved in the conspiracy in Barbados and would be present when the drugs were unpacked at David Emmanuel's home in Warlingham.

"Natara Russell is David Emmanuel's daughter. She went on the same four trips as Orville Thomas.

"The Crown's case is she was fully aware of what was taking place and that she had telephone contact with some of the couriers.

"Courtney Swaby went on one trip to Barbados, but acted on the other trips as the trusted driver to collect David Emmanuel from Gatwick airport."

Mr Little told the court Mr Swaby played an important role and asked the jury to consider whether he was ever present at Emmanuel's house when there was discussions on drugs and/or when the drugs were delivered back to the singers mansion.

The jury were told the drug smuggling came to a halt on February 27, 2010, when the five women who were travelling together were arrested at Grantley Adams airport in Barbados.

About 30kg of cocaine, the equivalent of 30 bags of sugar, were found in three of the women's suitcases.

Mr Little said: "Also at the airport on February 27, 2010, were David Emmanuel, Orville Thomas and Natara Russell who watched this all take place but had kept a safe distance away.

"They were not stopped and were able to fly back to England undetected."

Mr Thomas, 37, and Miss Russell, 19, were arrested on March 15, last year. Mr Emmanuel, 48, was due to be arrested the same day, but stabbed himself through the heart at his Surrey mansion in Hillbury Road, Warlingham.

Mr Swaby, 52, was arrested on May 20, 2011, when a search warrant was executed at his home address.

The trial continued but was subsequently stopped due to a poor video link.

A retrial was set but the case against the defendants was dropped, and they were cleared of all charges.