Two Craigavon men were remanded into custody on Saturday accused of having around a kilo of “very pure” cocaine.
While 31-year-old Dean Smith did not apply for bail at Lisburn Magistrates Court, his co-accused Thomas Nicholl did but was refused after police claimed the pair “played an integral role in an organised crime gang.”
Warehouse worker Smith, from Gilpin Park and unemployed Nicholl, from Knightsbridge, are jointly charged in four charges of supplying cocaine, possessing cocaine and having the class A drug with intent to supply and possessing class B cannabis on 24 November this year. A fifth count against Smith alleges that he possessed cannabis with intent to supply.
Giving evidence to the court Detective Constable Hawkins said he believed he could connect the men to the charges which arose “as a result of an ongoing operation into serious organised crime.”
The officer outlined how uniformed officers stopped Smith’s Vauxhall Vectra car in Gracefield Lodge in Dollingstown but having grabbed a “brick shaped object” from the footwell, he ran across a field towards undergrowth.
Nicholl, who appeared in the dock with his right arm in a sling, tried to run as well but stumbled and fell, breaking his wrist in the process.
The DC said a police dog handler was “on the scene quite quickly” and the dog first uncovered the cocaine and then Smith who was hiding in a bush.
A small “deal bag” of herbal cannabis was uncovered in Nicholl’s possession when he was searched and a further similar bag was found on the dashboard of Smith’s car, the court heard.
In relation to the cocaine, DC Hawkins said it was wrapped in clingfilm, inside a plastic bag within a tied sock. The officer said police believed it was uncut “because of the speed of the field test turned positive, it’s very pure,” adding that it had an estimated street value of around £50,000.
During interviews both Smith and Nicholl denied any knowledge of the cocaine. The detective said police have “strong objections to bail” amid fears they would reoffend to “recoup the loss” the seizure represented.
Defence solicitor Conor Downey said he had received “firm instructions” from Smith that “he alone was the only person aware of the existence” of the drugs and that according to him, “Mr Nicholl played absolutely no part in this whatsoever.”
With several relatives weeping in the public gallery, Mr Downey said Nicholl suffered from a genetic disorder and was a father of two whose partner and family were willing to sign as sureties for him.
District Judge Rosie Watters said she had concerns. “There’s a lot of money at stake here so why would he take a passenger along who didn’t know anything about purpose of the trip or purpose of the expedition so I’m concerned about the commission of further offences,” said the judge.
Smith and Nicholl will appear again in Craigavon Magistrates Court via videolink on December 16.