Prison guard smuggled cocaine and phone to convicted murderer

Heather McKenzie befriended murderer Zak Malavin before being caught as part of an anti-corruption probe at the jail.

HMP Shotts prison guard Heather McKenzie smuggled cocaine and phone to convicted killer STV News

A prison officer who smuggled drugs into a high security jail for a convicted murderer has been jailed for more than six years.

Heather McKenzie was snared during a corruption probe into staff at HMP Shotts in Lanarkshire.

The 31-year-old – an operations officer at the jail since 2017 – had befriended killer Zak Malavin.

He was later found with cocaine, an illicit iPhone and a sleeping pill during searches of his cell.

The mobile revealed he had been in contact with mum-of-two McKenzie, who had also tried getting another prisoner involved.

Police went on to find £2,500 in cash, phones, syringes, steroids and cocaine when her home was raided.

McKenzie was sentenced to six years and three months at the High Court in Glasgow.

She had earlier pled guilty to being concerned in the supply of cocaine and two class C drugs to Malavin and others.

McKenzie also admitted giving a phone and SIM card to Malavin.

The charges spanned between March and October 2020.

Her lawyer said she had effectively been preyed upon during a “lonely” time in her life.

McKenzie, of Forth, Lanarkshire, was led handcuffed to the cells in tears.

Prosecutor Graeme Jessop told an earlier hearing: “A joint operation by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) and Police Scotland investigating alleged corruption by staff within HMP Shotts commenced in March 2020.

“It was initiated after disclosures made to the SPS of the involvement of serving prison officers in corrupt and criminal practices including the supply of drugs and the introduction of mobile phones into Shotts.”

McKenzie was one of the staff members suspected.

There was “consistent intelligence” that she had formed a “close relationship” with a prisoner serving life at Shotts.

Malavin had been locked up for 17 years in 2011 for his part in the killing of Andrew Curran in a Maryhill Park in Glasgow the previous year.

A string of messages were discovered between the pair with McKenzie having met criminals to be given drugs, phones and money.

Mr Jessop: “The relationship continued with both McKenzie and the prisoner initiating conversations regarding the introduction of controlled drugs and money into HMP Shotts.

“The prisoner appeared to use other inmates to hold and store illicit items.

“McKenzie would drop smuggled items into a prisoner safe within or near his cell for safe storage.”

Mr Jessop said the quantity of drugs and phone recovered were “minimal”, but evidence revealed the “nature and frequency” of the smuggling.

McKenzie would meet with others for the illegal items to be dropped off to her.

The probe also revealed she had persuaded another prisoner to keep participating in the scheme after Malavin told her he was considering pulling out.

She urged him to continue and assured him his cell would not be searched by staff.

The court heard McKenzie’s personal life had not “been going so well” at the time.

Her lawyer said she had come out an abusive relationship and “found herself lonely”.

She ended up in regular contact with an individual via Snapchat which lead to becoming involved in the drug smuggling.

Laura Anne Radcliffe, defending, added: “It is only now, in hindsight, that she believes she was targeted.

“She was naive and easily manipulated. However, I do not say she was coerced – she willingly did it.

“She lost a job she was proud of, her income and her house.”

Judge David Young KC said McKenzie had used her “trusted position” to carrying out the crime.

He stated: “This particular offence is aggravated by several factors – the drugs were supplied into Shotts Prison.

“Drugs in prison cause a particular problem as they cause power struggles and violence in a closed environment.

“It is also dangerous for prison staff and makes their difficult job far harder – you would have been well aware of this as you were a serving prison officer.

“You breached the faith put in you by the service and the confidence and reliance of your colleagues.”

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