Woman arrested over £500k drugs raid

Published Thursday, 21 October 2010
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A 28-year-old woman has been arrested in connection with a £500,000 drugs seizure in Portstewart, Co Londonderry, last week.

She is the eighth person to be arrested in connection with the raids, which netted suspected amphetamines and the largest haul of ecstasy tablets recovered in Northern Ireland in the last three years.

She is currently helping police in Coleraine with their inquiries.

Earlier on Thursday, the High Court heard that six young men already charged over the seizure were allegedly recruited by a crime gang because they lacked criminal records.

Drugs were found hidden in the walls and stuffed into a sofa at a flat in the town, prosecutors said.

A further batch was discovered under loft insulation in the attic of a second property.

Details were disclosed during bail applications by three of the men facing charges including possessing Class A and Class B drugs with intent to supply, and conspiracy to supply.

Matthew McGookin, 23, of The Promenade, Portstewart, was granted bail to stay at his parents' home in Coleraine.

But co-accused James Platt, 20, from Coleraine Road, Portrush, and Daniel Morrow, 20, and also of The Promenade, Portstewart, were ordered to remain in custody.

The court heard organised crime branch detectives staged a search and arrest operation last Friday after receiving information that two other suspects were moving drugs between two properties.

Three large bags of blue tablets and five bags of white powder were found at the flat on the promenade, while more suspected ecstasy was recovered from a house in the Millfort Close area.

An estimated 90,000 ecstasy tablets and 1/3kg of amphetamines was confiscated.

Crown counsel Kate McKay said: "The combined estimated street value of the drugs is in the region of half a million pounds, and that would make it the largest seizure of ecstasy in Northern Ireland in the last three years."

She told the court police believe the accused were targeted by members of a wider organised crime gang due to their lack of records.

"It's felt they are being specifically recruited for that reason," Mrs McKay said.

It was claimed the flat on the promenade - rented by Morrow - was being used as a safe house to store the drugs.

Posters were placed over holes in bedroom walls where some of the haul was hidden, according to the prosecution.

Mrs McKay confirmed searches of other locations were planned, with potentially further arrests to be made.

McGookin's barrister Francis Rafferty told the court his client only moved into the flat three-four weeks ago after agreeing to sub-let a room from Morrow.

He said McGookin knew nothing about the drugs, none of which were found in his bedroom.

"The suggestion that he has a clear record and comes from a good family is now being put forward by the prosecution as a reason why he would be more likely to have committed these offences than not," Mr Rafferry said.

He added that the alleged link to a crime gang "does not bear any scrutiny whatsoever".

The judge agreed to grant bail to McGookin, but banned him from entering either Portrush or Portstewart.

Mr Justice Justice also imposed a night-time curfew and prohibited him from contacting any co-accused.

The court also heard how a photograph of a quantity of an unidentified white substance was found on Platt's mobile phone. His barrister put this down to "stupidity and naivety", suggesting it may have been an act of bravado.

Refusing bail to Platt and Morrow, Mr Justice Hart held there was a risk of further offences being committed.

© UTV News
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