Joiner snared with £450,000 cocaine haul after ‘visiting sick mum’

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

Joiner snared with £450,000 cocaine haul after ‘visiting sick mum’ iStock

A joiner was caught with more than £450,000 of cocaine after picking up the haul while reportedly on a trip to see his ill mother.

Police swooped in on Gary O’Connell, 23, as he returned keys to a van containing the drugs on April 18, 2020 in Gartcosh, North Lanarkshire.

The nine kilos of cocaine were recovered from a secret compartment in the rear of the vehicle only accessible by using a magnet.

An encrypted mobile phone was also found on O’Connell which included a conversation of the pickup of the drugs from Preston.

On Monday, O’Connell – a first offender – pleaded guilty at the High Court in Glasgow to being concerned in the supply of cocaine.

The offence was aggravated by connection with serious organised crime.

The court heard O’Connell was clocked in a white Renault Kangoo van at a car park.

Another man was seen getting out a Peugeot van and headed towards O’Connell.

They were both seen at the door of the van before the pair parted company and the other man drove off.

O’Connell was then detained by police.

Prosecutor Leigh Lawrie said: “He stated under caution to officers 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 encrypted phone as well as a pair of gloves were seized from O’Connell.

Ms Lawrie added: “The van was searched and 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 kilos.

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

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

O’Connell was interviewed where he stated the other man was in an “on/off” relationship with his sister.

He added that the man offered him the use of the van to use for the trip to England to visit his mother and was also given the phone in case “anything went wrong with the van”.

O’Connell stated he was told to go to Preston 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 was.

“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.

A check of the phone discovered that O’Connell went by the username ‘IvoryUmbrella’.

As he drove to England, he received messages stating: “This is the postcode”, “get me here”, “time of arrival?”

O’Connell replied: “10.30 hours.”

A text was then sent to him from an unknown person which said: “There’s a package in the van for me.”

The hearing was told a “tanned man” was seen to put a black bag in the hydraulics of the van driven by O’Connell at a housing estate in Preston. The pair did not communicate.

Sentence was deferred until next month for background reports by judge William Gallagher, who remanded O’Connell, of Glasgow’s Castlemilk, meantime.

The judge said: “You pled guilty to was is a very serious offence indeed.

“You were part of the process as a significant number of drugs made its way into the system in Scotland.

“In my view, you will face a custodial sentence.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code