'Petrolhead' smuggled nearly £1.5m of drugs into Northern Ireland under death threat by man linked to Dublin gangland feud, court hears
A so-called 'petrolhead' smuggled nearly £1.5 million worth of cocaine and heroin from Holland to Northern Ireland under threat of being killed by a man allegedly linked to a deadly Dublin gangland feud, the High Court heard.
Neil Davidson claims he agreed to conceal the drugs in his stockcar trailer as part of efforts to pay off personal debts of £27,000, his lawyer said.
A judge was told the 28-year-old had been introduced to a man connected to the Hutch-Kinahan feud who warned he would get "a bullet in the head" if the operation failed.
Details emerged as Davidson was granted bail on charges brought over the seizure in Belfast's docks area on September 23.
He was arrested after exiting the Cairnryan ferry in a BMW X5 transporting his stockcar back from Rotterdam.
Cocaine with an estimated street value of £960,000, heroin worth £500,000, and cannabis resin valued at £2,000 was discovered under the floor of the steel trailer.
Prosecutor Stephanie Boyd said police had never before seen such a well-compressed consignment, with a blade required to obtain a sample.
Davidson, of no fixed address but living at rental accommodation in Portadown, faces charges of importing and possessing Class A and Class B drugs with intent to supply.
He made admissions to police straight away, claiming to have acted under duress and in return for a £5,000 payment.
The court heard he has made 11 trips to Holland since March.
Opposing bail, Mrs Boyd claimed he was a trusted member of a gang attempting to bring in a major drugs haul for distribution across Ireland.
Defence counsel Joe Brolly argued, however, that Davidson was a classic patsy identified because he was a "clean potato" who regularly travelled to the Netherlands with his stockcar.
The accused, an unemployed steel fabricator, has raced competitively since the age of 14, according to the lawyer.
"He would be described as a petrolhead, his passion for stockcar racing has brought him all over Europe in the past decade," Mr Brolly said.
The court heard that after getting into debt through being out of work Davidson was put in touch with a man from Swords, Co Dublin referred to only as "Joe".
According to Mr Brolly Joe was said to be involved in the ongoing gangland feud between the Hutch and Kinahan crime families that has claimed a number of lives.
"He (Davidson) was told be Joe he would have to do this or a bullet would be put in his head," the barrister continued.
"Arrangements were made for him to travel to Amsterdam and on to Rotterdam where he met two men in a car park. Packages were then secreted in a trailer and he drove them back with his stockcar."
Mr Justice Burgess was told he refuses to reveal the identities of those he dealt with.
"He says there's no doubt he would be killed if he were to name them," Mr Brolly added.
Details of the accused's chronic health problems were also disclosed, including two liver transplants and regular trips to King's College Hospital in London.
Granting bail, the judge held that Davidson was now firmly on police's radar.
He ordered the defendant to surrender his passport and banned him from leaving Northern Ireland except for medical appointments.