TWO men accused of murdering young father Rico Dardis “grappled with each other during a heated row” hours before the 30-year-old’s death, a court heard.

Paul Mark Gerlach, 51, and Louis Borzoni 50, rowed with each other aboard boat No Chance while “intoxicated”, an eye witness said.

Anthony Soper, whose yacht is moored alongside Gerlach’s vessel in the Christchurch Quay area, told the jury at Winchester Crown Court that the defendants were “quite boisterous” when he saw them on May 27 last year.

He said he was “surprised” when they turned on the boat’s engine, believing them to be “in no fit state” to go to sea.

“One of the men shouted, ‘We are the Christchurch pirates’,” he added.

Mr Soper said he’d also heard one of the three aboard the craft calling someone “ungrateful” before saying: “You’ve smoked all my cigarettes and drunk all of my beer”.

Prosecutors allege that the three men set sail that afternoon before Mr Dardis, 30, was pushed overboard and then deliberately run over by the Maxum speedboat.

His dismembered body was found floating near groynes at Seaway Avenue, Friar’s Cliff, Christchurch.

Both of his legs had been severed by the boat’s propeller.

Mr Soper’s father-in-law, Edward Arnold, said both of the older men he saw that day were “slightly inebriated”, recounting that they had trouble climbing aboard the No Chance from the tender.

“Certainly it wasn’t a skilful transfer from one boat to the other,” he said.

He recalled that Mr Dardis, who had been dropped off at the bigger boat some time before, “sat quietly” while the other two men engaged in a “tussle”.

“[It wasn’t] a fight exactly, but one of the older males was restraining the second from raising his arms,” he said.

Lisa Thompson, who had been picnicking with her family on the Whitsun bank holiday, said she saw two men – believed to be Gerlach and Mr Dardis – in a tender while feeding the ducks.

A third man – allegedly Borzoni – stood near her on the quayside.

She said the man believed to be Mr Dardis had shouted: “I’ve never been on a boat before”.

“I said to them, ‘You’re mad going out in that’,” she said.

“[The boat was] all over the place and I thought they were going to tip out.”

Gerlach, of no fixed abode, and Borzoni, of Hamilton Road, Boscombe, deny murdering Mr Dardis.

The trial continues.