Cops make mugs out of drug smuggling crooks up after finding cocaine in HGV

A man from Wigan has been jailed for his part in a plot to smuggle GBP6m-worth of cocaine into the UK. John Blake, 48, of Avon Road, Ashton-in-Makerfield has been locked up for 13 years and seven months for conspiracy to import Class A drugs. Blake was sentenced alongside his accomplice in the drugs racket, Mark Holmes, from Merseyside.

Their plot unravelled when police officers came across the pair parked at the side of a road in Derbyshire in a broken-down HGV. The vehicle was seized and an initial search of the cab revealed a sophisticated encrypted mobile phone containing a foreign SIM card. Holmes and Blake were interviewed and denied any wrongdoing.

They were released while police combed the vehicle again.

The stash found in the HGV

Officers found a huge stash of cocaine hidden in a custom-made compartment within the trailer chassis. The drugs haul was estimated to be worth GBP6m.

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Officers from GMP‘s Serious and Organised Crime Group launched an investigation into the pair, and their conspiracy was rumbled when research revealed numerous unusual business and travel arrangements. In September last year, Holmes travelled from Portsmouth to Bilbao, Spain via the ferry in a white HGV truck.

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Telephone data revealed that over the following days Holmes and Blake were in regular contact whilst Holmes was out of the country and Blake remained in the UK.

Blake took a flight from Liverpool to Malaga two days later. Using telephone data, officers could see that Holmes and Blake met up in Spain and travelled together through France with Holmes driving and Blake as passenger in the truck.

Cops make mugs out of drug smuggling crooks up after finding cocaine in HGVJohn Blake

They returned to the UK on Wednesday, September 12 via Dover. After his release Holmes wasn’t aware police had found the drugs and thought they’d got away with it.

He repeatedly pestered officers for his truck to be returned, and on one day he called the investigation team over 20 times.

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Officers decided to see how confident Holmes was by returning the HGV to him, and covertly following him to see exactly what he did next.

Holmes attended GMP’s vehicle compound where officers returned the HGV to him, even though it still hadn’t been repaired and was undriveable. Holmes used a HGV recovery service and took the vehicle to Knowsley in Merseyside. A short time later, a Ford C-Max driven by another man arrived.

His passenger was John Blake.

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Officers continued to watch as Blake and Holmes parked the HGV up and began searching it themselves. Holmes, with assistance from Blake, was seen entering the pallet compartment of the HGV, removing the metal plates and allowing access to the hide within the chassis area. Holmes then discovered the drugs were missing from the hide, just as officers swiftly moved in and arrested the men, despite Holmes trying to make a last-ditch attempt to escape.

Holmes, 46, of Derbyshire Hill Rd, Merseyside was sentenced to 17 years in prison for conspiracy to import Class A drugs on Wednesday.

Cops make mugs out of drug smuggling crooks up after finding cocaine in HGVMark Holmes

Detective Inspector Lee Griffin, of GMP’s Serious and Organised Crime Group, said: “It’s thanks to the hard work of all the officers in this case, along with numerous partner agencies, that these criminals have been stopped from deluging our streets with such a huge amount of drugs. “Drugs destroy relationships, blight communities and wreck the lives not only of drug users but also of those people caught up in the illicit supply chains. “Those who benefit from supplying illegal drugs to vulnerable people deserve no place in our society, and our community is a safer place with them behind bars.

“I hope this sentencing sends a clear message that we will pursue those persons who supply harmful drugs and we will go to great lengths to bring them to justice.”

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