Joiner jailed after being caught red-handed with £450,000 cocaine haul

Police swooped in on Gary O'Connell as he returned keys to a van containing the drugs in Gartcosh, North Lanarkshire.

Joiner jailed after being caught red-handed with £450,000 cocaine haul iStock

A joiner caught with a £450,000 haul of cocaine while on a trip to see his sick mother has been jailed for four years.

Gary O’Connell was held in Gartcosh, North Lanarkshire, on April 18 last year.

A total of nine kilogrammes of cocaine was found hidden in a secret compartment of a Renault Kangoo van he had been driving.

Police also seized an encrypted phone which had messages discussing a drugs pick-up.

O’Connell was sentenced at the High Court in Glasgow on Monday.

The 23-year-old, of the city’s Castlemilk, had previously pled guilty to being concerned in the supply of cocaine.

Prosecutors stated the offence had a connection to serious and organised crime.

Judge William Gallacher said the jail-term would have been six years, but for the guilty plea.

O’Connell was arrested after he was clocked chatting to another man, who then drove off.

Prosecutor Leigh Lawrie said: “He stated that he [had] just driven home from England where he had visited his ill mother.

“He stated he had just handed back the keys of the van to the individual who drove off.”

The Renault van was then searched by officers.

Ms Lawrie added: “A magnet was stuck against the white metal interior at the side.

“The engine was turned on and the magnet was run along the side of the footstep area at the sliding door.

“This action triggered a hydraulic hide to open up within the rear of the van.

“Within it was nine taped packages found to be cocaine weighing nine kilogrammes.

“The value of the cocaine is indicated to be £452,000.”

The purity of the drugs ranged from 28-64%.

O’Connell stated he had been told to go to Preston in Lancashire and that he would receive money for doing this.

Ms Lawrie said: “He said a man chapped the back of the van.

“He did not see him and did not know who he as.

“The unknown man then put something into the van and took something out of it.”

O’Connell claimed he drove back to Scotland unaware of anything in the van.

His lawyer claimed O’Connell had debts and initially tried to pay it off with legitimate loans before turning to crime.

Jennifer Bain QC, defending, added: “He sights his ignorance in respect of the amount of drugs (in the van) and the wider operation.

“He has expressed to me how difficult to believe how he could have been so very stupid.”

Judge Gallacher said O’Connell’s claims appeared to show “extraordinary naivety”.

He went on: “I have to have a public responsibility for the impact class A drugs have in the community and society in general.”

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